I hope the Karma Gods were watching.
Athletics, table tennis and a traditional lunch with the kids, these are just some of the things on Roger’s itinerary in Ethiopia.
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games, Federer was in the country to inspect the work his charitable organisation does on the ground with their domestic partner – the Education for Development Association (EFDA). Traveling all the way to Africa in the middle of a tennis season for charity? Clearly, he’s a douchebag.
Roger revealed during the visit that the children moved him to tears.
“When I arrived at the school and all of the children were singing, it was very emotional,” Federer told Reuters.
“They sang, “Roger, our Father’ to me. I didn’t really understand it at the beginning but I still had tears in my eyes.”
Awww Poop, you cried?
In the words of Jim Courrier, “SHOCKER.”
Roger further discussed how the inspirations behind the foundation came from his family. It’s no surprise – Mirka, Robert, Lynette, Roger himself and Tony Godsick are all board members within the organisation. And it looks like the Mighty Babes will be in the future as well.
“My Mum being from South Africa is obviously the inspiration behind the foundation,” Federer said, as local kids screamed “Number one!’ behind him.
“I went there on vacation a lot when I was younger. So we started with a project in South Africa and, as I got older and got more money, I wanted to expand.”
… His seven-month old twin girls, Myla and Charlene, could eventually take over the charity Federer wants to continue long after he stops playing, he said.
“I definitely want to show them that this world exists as well,” Federer said, gesturing at the tin-roofed classrooms around him.
“There’s no way around it for them because I’ll be traveling. It will be a very exciting ten years for me because I’ll be trying to educate and help them and show them all these things.”
Despite the limited exposure tennis gets in Ethiopia, Federer was easily recognised in the streets.
As multi-millionaire Federer drove through the streets of the capital Addis Ababa, four street kids caught a glimpse of him through the window of his coach.
Leaping to their feet, they ran after the bus.
“Federer! Federer! We love you! We love you!” they shouted.
For Federer, who has won 16 grand slam titles, the level of recognition in one of the world’s poorest and most remote countries, more known for athletics than tennis, was a surprise.
“It’s my first time here so I didn’t expect this,” he said. “I always think I should have been to a country before people know me. I forget about the television.”
Local girl Nihlaa Omar, stretching before racing against the tennis maestro in a 1km fun run, said she had seen him on television in a nearby town.
“We know he’s as famous as our famous runners like Kenenisa Bekele,” she said referring to the twice Olympic 10,000 meters champion. “But I think Ethiopians can beat him at running.”
No kidding. With running being such a huge sport in the country, Roger took part in a race with the local kids and a certain member of his own species.
The race kicked off, with the Swiss immediately humbled as the Ethiopian children, who live at high altitude, overtook him en masse, a goat leading the field for the first 500 meters. Federer finished near the back of the field.
“I’ve always had massive respect for long distance sports,” he said. “The terrain was so dangerous and they ran barefoot. It was impressive to say the least.”
All credit for Reuters for being one of the few media outlets to cover the visit (clickey). With the natural disaster in Haiti, it’s important that we remember to keep supporting the humanitarian effort in Africa and parts of South East Asia. Chronic poverty within a country isn’t “breaking news”, and often does not get much coverage in the mainstream media. Hopefully Federer’s visit brings some media attention to the country’s problems.
One last quote to warm the cockles of your wintry heart:
“How old are you?” one girl said. Super-fit Federer, 28, asked her to guess.
“I don’t know about white people,” she said, shyly. “45?”