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Thursday , December 8 2022

Tarek Al-Qallaf: A global champion’s success story – Investing in national skills to make world of difference

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Since its establishment in 1977, Burgan Bank has been keen to enhance its role in community development and as an active member of the society that will inspire positive changes. Now, as one of the highest contributors to society, Burgan Bank has been an integral part in supporting community initiatives that make a difference locally and internationally across various sectors and areas of need, with particular focus on partnerships by aiding in their development and ensuring a sustainable outcome. The special needs segment has been at the forefront of Burgan Bank efforts for nearly 40 years. The Bank promotes diverse opportunities to pursue independent goals and an inclusive environment that people with disabilities can benefit from as equal members of the community. Its corporate social responsibility strategy is driven by the belief that each individual has the right to showcase their abilities and passion for excellence to fulfill their ambitions in any field of choice as well as successfully contribute to the growth of Kuwait as a whole. Additionally, Burgan Bank aims to reiterate its commitment to the wider community as part of its social efforts, the Bank used to annually honor outstanding special needs patients across various categories during the ‘Al Mass awards’ ceremony. The largest and most distinctive special needs program in Kuwait, was developed as a simple idea by Burgan Bank to acknowledge their abilities to overcome everyday challenges and facilitate their integration in the community through funding and regular sponsorship.

As a progressive financial institution, part of Burgan Bank’s long standing mission also is to ensure best in-class services for the special needs segment. The bank has ensured they are met with a full-fledged banking experience accommodated by improved accessibility and the latest world-class technological applications. Burgan Bank has dedicated 6 fully-equipped branches in various governorates to enable physically disabled, visually impaired and seniors’ access to tailor-made products and services. All the six branches are managed by a number of well-trained employees who have been taught to communicate via sign language with those who suffer from sensory disabilities — hearing and speech impairment. In addition to ATM services for the visually impaired and disabled customers, easily accessible safety deposit boxes, and debit and credit cards with photo functionality for quick identification are also present. The banks products and services, terms and conditions, and account statements can also be printed in Braille language while all ATMs are backed with audio guidance command technology available in both English and Arabic as well as braille key pads to help perform transactions in full privacy. In an effort to safeguard customer safety further, Burgan Bank also employed extra security measures inside the ATM rooms.

Guided by its long standing principle of placing people at the heart of its business as it accommodates the interests of the community within which it operates, the homegrown brand also heavily invests in local youth sports and entrepreneurial skills through sponsorship of various engagements that help demonstrate talent and advance their potential. To ensure a prosperous future for its youth, the bank is renowned for advocating social initiatives locally and internationally with the objective of promoting Kuwait’s inherent talents on global platforms.

Success story

One cause that is particularly close it its heart and is directly responsible for having made successful, is the rise of the talented – World Champion in Wheelchair Fencing Titleholder, ‘Tareq Al-Qallaf’. Raising the Kuwaiti flag high on international platforms, Al Qallaf serves as the perfect example of determination who overcame his difficulties and consistently achieved first place throughout his tenure as a sportsman. It was his childhood dream to challenge what some might call his handicap and convey a strong message to all those who have similar aspirations to beat their fears and restrictions and reach for their dreams too. Tareq Al-Qallaf who is considered a role model since his first win in 1982 not just to the special needs segment but the entire community as a whole, has broken the record and proved that anyone like him can be equally as successful. Sponsoring for the fourth consecutive year, this year, Burgan Bank will continue to support for an entire year as Al Qallaf prepares to face his opponents and bring pride to his country “Kuwait”.

The young, dynamic, and diverse bank, known to pursue sustainability through its varied efforts, has been created on a foundation of real values — of trust, commitment, excellence and progression. The same values that are fundamental to Tareq Al-Qallaf as he serves as an inspiration and role model to all those who aspire to follow their dreams. Which is the same values adopted by the hero Tareq Al-Qallaf, is a source of inspiration and a model for everyone who looks forward and seeks to achieve his dreams.

Tareq Al-Qallaf: Journey of a dedicated athlete

Question: You have been practicing fencing since 1982. What drove you to practice and pursue this particular sport?

Answer: During my treatment in Britain, I had the opportunity to visit Buckingham Palace. While there, the iconic uniform of the Royal Guard proudly holding the sword in hand and their military demeanor instilled a new desire and interest in the tool or weapon itself. I was instantly inspired to fight my limitations, do what I love and lift my country’s name on global grounds.

Q: Tell us about how your disability got you on your way to the next phase of life & how you became world champion?

A: I was born a healthy child without any issues but at the age of seven, ironically, the needle that was meant to prevent me from polio became the cause of it. My family and I were shocked by the news and had to endure treatment for 3 years in Britain. When I returned to Kuwait, I was strengthened by the belief that I was indeed equipped with all of the tools and more importantly, determined mindset to lead a normal life, make my dream come true and practice my favorite sport. My handicap would soon become my fortress of strength and a symbol of triumph.

Q: You have shown the world that a single disability will not stand in your way and you are now Kuwait’s proud contender in international arenas. Tell us more about your achievements.

A: We are no different from the rest of our peers. Armed with strong faith and I had a message to deliver, that no one was exempt from achieving their goal or from transforming a simply hobby into a career as long as he or she is steadfast in their mission and is fortunate enough to have the support of their countrymen, as I did from Kuwait. As Kuwait’s world titleholder, I’m proud & honored to won the ‘sword of honor’ as the best performing global player in international championships and won more than 8 world cups as best player in the world. I’m proud to won total of 395 gold, silver and bronze medals over the years, and won more than 15 sword including Royal sword honors. I would like others to know that this is all due to my resolution to always aim higher and tenaciousness to strive for what I want. Have hope, go out there and make yourself and Kuwait proud.

Q: World Champion and Kuwait’s most celebrated athlete, has been associated with Burgan Bank for four years now. Describe your experience

A: Burgan Bank’s continued support and conviction in my abilities has been the source of motivation. This has driven me to excel in performance and keep persisting in winning further recognition. The bank has helped me to cover the costs of the game with tools, equipment and special trainers, which served me well in preparing and qualifying for the tournaments. I am proud to associate my name and success with Burgan Bank, one of the largest social contributors to the betterment of the community and its youth.

Q: Today your name graces the books of academic curriculums. How were you chosen?

A: I am honored and proud to be part of this initiative, and I’m thankful for Ministry of Education for including my story as part of the seventh grade curriculum. I look forward to it inspiring future generations as they hear of my victorious journey. It also brings me great pleasure when the schools invite me to narrate my accomplishments in life to help motivate students and be a fulfilling part of their stories as well.

Q: Tell us about your future plans?

A: I dream of someday establishing an academy named “Tariq Al-Qallaf International Fencing Academy” to teach my favorite sport which has earned its prominence and credibility over the decades. What was first considered a military training grew into a modern combative sport that could be practiced by all. A noble tradition that still maintains its distinction, fencing originated as swordsmanship for duels and self-defense. Fencing integrates key characteristics that make it an exciting yet challenging sport — a combination of flexibility, patience, strength, coordination, balance, and timing. It demands competitive physical and mental agility for instance, foil fencing, touches are scored with the tip of the blade. Additionally, the sport teaches one good sportsmanship and respect for your opponent. Both genders of all age groups from different segments can enjoy the sport. With the collaboration of ZLCOF ZFA Academy in the United States of America where they exchange relevant experiences and training workshops, I would equip players for the tournaments through training camps here in Kuwait.

The Academy is amply equipped with training classes, certified trainers, appropriate equipment and protective clothing. I look forward to making another dream possible to give back to the community that adopted and nurtured my talent, through the continued support of Burgan Bank, my greatest benefactor.

Q: Describe one of the funniest moments encountered during your international tournaments?

A: One of the funniest and most memorable incidents I have had was with one of the world’s most renowned special needs player, the Italian sportsman “André Pellegrini” whose leg was amputated. I managed to play a prank on him by stealing his artificial leg during one of the training sessions. When I ran into the stadium, he ran after me yelling out my name in front of the audience! The spectators saw this and broke out into laughter and applauded as well!

Q: What is your daily training routine?

A: When I am stationed in Kuwait, I ensure to train five times a week in order to maintain my physical composure, fitness and stamina while adhering to a strict customized diet followed by adequate sleep. Other days, I train twice a day in the morning and evening and never carry heavy items to keep fit. Keeping safe my hands at all time, I am disciplined and train extensively before and during the tournament phase. A specialized medical team is always readily available to aid me during my exercise sessions to avoid injury and to relax when needed.

Q: What is the core message you want your readers to know?

A: Never give up! Go aggressively in the direction of your dreams and keep your eye on the goal. Become the epitome of determination and commitment. Build yourself up like I did and serve as an example to those in search of role models. I immensely thank Burgan Bank for always being by my side and sharing in my success story. God willing, we will continue to progress and make headlines around the world together.

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