On more than one occasion it’s been said that Roger Federer has the midas touch and on the tennis court that assertion is not far from the truth. But when it comes to football it seems the world number one and 16-time Grand Slam winner also possesses super human powers. Just ask the coach of the Swiss national team Ottmar Hitzfeld.
After a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Luxembourg in their World Cup qualifying match the German coach called Federer and asked for his help. “The coach said he thought it would be good for the players to meet me,” says Federer. “He said he hoped that maybe the players could draw some inspiration from me so I thought ‘why not?’. I went to meet the team at their training camp in the Alps and it was kind of cool. It was more like a question and answer session. They asked me lots of questions about being a top sportsman, how I prepare for tournaments and that kind of thing. It was really interesting and I guess it didn’t do any harm because they won their next match and then went on to beat Greece in Athens.”
Switzerland remained unbeaten for the rest of the campaign and qualified for South Africa top of group 2. Although Federer’s motivational skills haven’t been called upon again the tennis star will be keeping a keen eye on his country this summer. “I’m always excited when it’s a World Cup year,” says Federer, who is a massive FC Basel fan and his mother Lynette was born in South Africa. Federer also has both Swiss and South Africa citizenship. “It’s the first World Cup in Africa so it’s going to have a really special atmosphere. I think it’s going to be a great tournament and I can’t wait for it to start.
"The coach said he thought it would be good for the players to meet me... they won their next match and then went on to beat Greece in Athens"
"The first World Cup I remember was in Italy in 1990. I was in Italy on a family holiday and I remember how the whole country was transfixed by the tournament. I loved watching players like Roberto Baggio and Toto Schillaci. When Italy lost to Argentina on penalties I remember there were people crying in the streets”.
The only crying Federer experiences these days are the tears of his twin girls Charlene and Myla who arrived on July 23rd 2009 just two weeks after he re-claimed his Wimbledon crown and, in the process, broke Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams titles. Not that becoming a father has blunted the competitive edges of the greatest tennis player of all-time. “When Mirka was pregnant she was really happy and excited,” says Federer. “For me that was great to see and it helped me relax and play some of my best tennis. Towards the end of her pregnancy I won the French Open and then Wimbledon which was great. Since the babies have arrived I’ve continued to have great success like winning the Australian Open in January so I’m really happy at how we’ve made the transition”.
It’s another big summer for Roger Federer. The defence of his French Open and Wimbledon titles will be at the forefront of his mind but he’ll undoubtedly be keeping an eye on events in South Africa. Federer has played his part in Switzerland qualifying for the World Cup and while he will be too busy on the tennis courts to offer his services as a motivational guru to Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men, over the years, Federer has more than done his bit for Swiss sport.