Tennis

Federer caught in awkward stadium snub

Many would argue that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time but despite that a number of issues may prevent his hometown stadium being named after him.

Federer has won an astonishing nine titles at the Swiss Indoors in Basel but money and Swiss custom are the main reasons the stadium court won’t be named in his honour.

Fans have been lobbying for years to have St Jakobshalle arena in Federer’s home town of Basel renamed to ‘Roger Federer Arena’ and now Basel councillor Martina Bernasconi has joined the fight, launching a petition for the change.

So far the petition has only been signed by 236 people of the 10,000 needed to get it on the agenda but Bernasconi concedes there are problems, one being that Switzerland only honours the dead but the other is what Federer demands money for the use of his name.

“The main arguments (against) have been that Switzerland and Basel only honour dead people,” she said.

“And that Federer is a brand and he wants money.”

Swiss tradition usually restricts the honouring of sporting figures until after they’ve died, but Bernasconi says Federer’s importance to his countrymen is what really matters.

“He is the most popular ambassador of Switzerland,” she said.

“Because he speaks the Basel dialect, people have a high identification with him.

“He was Born in Basel and lived 16 years in this town, visited the school and his first tennis club was Old Boys Basel. He married (wife Mirka) here and his parents live in Basel.

“All over the world, he is well known, so he is really popular, not only as a sportsman.”

An initial push to rename the arena began 12 months ago, but was thwarted by the local council who voted against it.

“It can be a nice gesture later to put such a memorial on for Federer,” Councillor Thomas Gander told The Express last year.

“But today it is still too early. And I’m almost sure he sees it that way.”

Federer, who at 37 years old and No.4 in the world, has already claimed titles in Dubai and Miami this year to make it 101 in his astonishing career deemed to indicate in the past that he would relish such an honour while living though.

“I would be very happy,” Federer told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger.

“It would be an absolute, incredible honour for me.

“I see what Rod Laver or Roy Emerson means when you have a stadium named after you and you can experience it.”

However, he was pragmatic as to whether it would actually occur for him.

“They asked me if I was against this petition,” Federer said.

“I said, no, I would be glad if it happened. But I also understand if it does not work. That’s what other people should decide, not me. That’s why I have not commented yet.

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