The challenge of teaching if religion allows it

13,957 kilometers from his native San Juan, Tomás Perucca leads his life teaching about the sport that he is passionate about but in a place where everything revolves according to the reigning religion, in this case Islam. The San Juan triathlete settled a year and a half ago in Kuwait, one of the Arab countries in the Middle East.

There he arrived in October 2019 promoted by the Spanish coach Vicent Beltrán and in order to be one of the coaches in the “Kuwait Triathlon Club”, a training center created purely and exclusively to bring out good triathletes in the not too distant future. Perucca, who in San Juan knew how to train the brothers Felipe and Valentín Vargas, for example, did not hesitate for a second to give that resounding change to his life, far from his affections and his native land. Although he knew of the cultural reality he was going to encounter, he never imagined that the Kuwaiti bond with religion would be so strong, so much so that his training schedule was arranged purely and exclusively according to the daily prayers of the more than 80 triathletes who train there.

“The whole society is very religious and that handles everything. The religious rituals are different, they do not meet on Sundays but on Fridays in mosques (churches). Prayers are celebrated five times a day and since they are all practitioners, people interrupt activities to pray, “says the trainer. Those five daily prayers are the ones that coaches should take into account when putting together the weekly training schedule: “There are four prayers a day that cannot be interrupted. If you are doing sports, or in public administration or in a supermarket and it is prayer time, people disappear, go to pray and come back. That is why we have to be attentive so as not to complicate our students, “he says.

In the pool. Tomás Perucca on the edge of the pool giving instructions to his team in training for a triathlon.

Coquettish Kuwait, known for its modern architecture that ranges from skyscrapers to the impressive Kuwait Towers, has 98% of its population as practicing religious. Those who must comply every year with “Ramadan” and that is another key point in the Triathlon Club. “It is my second Ramadan here and what is experienced is impressive. People in that month live at night,” Perucca comments. It is that this sacred date for Muslims – which this year was held from April 12 to May 12 – is fasting and prayer for the parishioners. “Training all that month is a challenge as a coach, we were seeing what the best schedules were, we had to change everything, we only left swimming for the last hour of the day and after that they could eat and drink because everyone ended up dehydrated. other shifts at night and early morning, “he commented.

“Sport is progressing a lot in this region. The results are visible and that motivates us to continue.”
TOMÁS PERUCCA

Although Ramadan already ended a few weeks ago, the San Juan commented that there are consequences: “The athletes are returning to normal sleep patterns because they were sleeping badly for a month. They are getting comfortable with sleep and with food and the body is coming tired. That makes us have to be playing with planning all the time, “said the coach.

Perucca, despite the fact that he has not been able to see his family for a year and a half, is comfortable and happy in Arab lands. It highlights the charisma of the people and the safety of that city: “I don’t know if it will have to see how strongly they embrace religion or what, but the people are very friendly and give you enormous security. You can leave your bike anywhere and nobody touches it. Since I arrived I did not see or find out about a robbery or theft. Nothing, “he said.

It is clear that Perucca feels comfortable there, it is both the professionalism of the club and the commitment to make triathlon grow in the region that Perucca is excited to continue, beyond what may happen in October when the contract of 2 years: “It is a club that was developing the sport from the children’s categories to what could one day be elite. The athletes have already begun to see progress and results and I do not want to leave because as coach of this project this part of seeing progress It’s what I like the most, “said the coach, who in the other part of the world is dedicated to teaching the sport that he is passionate about but a society with a different culture.

Peace reigns

Kuwait, which felt the invasion of Saddam Hussein in 1990 and which had to resort to the help of the United States to remove the Iraqis, was not again involved in any other warlike conflict. On the other hand, the Government of Kuwait itself issued a law that fines those who express themselves on social media in favor of Israel.

Closed borders

Since he left the province of San Juan, the triathlete and instructor Tomás Perucca did not return. With the pandemic involved, he was made a difficult and practically impossible mission. Kuwait’s border is constantly changing according to the country’s health situation, even two months since the borders have been completely closed.

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