Here are some excerpts from a great article in ‘The Los Angeles Times’ from yesterday, on why there is not much of a buzz about Federer in his home town, Basel.
BASEL, SWITZERLAND — This might sound almost extraterrestrial to Americans and especially Angelenos, but Roger Federer’s hometown seems to boast no outward images of, well, Roger Federer.
“Idolizing heroes — the Swiss, they’re not so comfortable with that,” said Hans-Dieter Gerber, the Swiss collection manager for a Basel sports museum specializing in soccer, adding, “I think it’s more difficult for Swiss people to express publicly their feelings in such a way.”
Billboards large and small include an anonymous happy couple alongside wedges of Gruyere cheese, anonymous men on a boat drinking sparkling water, an anonymous couple lying on a beach in the surf, two hairdressers of possible local prominence and an anonymous burgundy Fiat, but no visible Federer.
“They’re very proud of him, especially the German Swiss,” said Lynette Federer, the champion’s mother. “They’re really proud, but they don’t speak it out loud.”
Then the native South African who married a Swiss guy and gave birth to the most gorgeous tennis anybody ever saw affects a whisper and impersonates the locals: ” ‘Oh, yeah, he’s a great guy, but don’t tell anybody!’ “
What’s Basel? It’s a city of 170,000 in a country of 7.5 million. The Rhine River runs through it. It’s gorgeous, especially in the narrow streets near the river. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s not mountainous in the Swiss-postcard mode, but it’s hilly, especially around Federer’s childhood home.
“He is not like a god,” said Esther Roth, who works at the tourist office in the train station. She appreciates Federer nonetheless.
Marmillod, the tennis teacher, said, “You cannot compare him to Borg and McEnroe and Sampras and Agassi,” because their auras differed from Federer’s and, “If you see Roger Federer, you are, ‘Hey, he’s a buddy.’ “
The Swiss love that, evidenced by the three autographed Federer photographs in the club, and the Federer cardboard cutout, and the unpretentious little sign high on the fence outside that reads “Roger Federer Centre Court.”
There’s something about those homages, and it’s this: They might be the first images you spot in the whole city of the No. 1 tennis player, of whom Brennwald says, “It’s a miracle that we have this ball boy years ago named Roger Federer.”
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