Roger Federer is one of the most revered athletes in the world. He has a street named after him in Halle, Germany, but it seems unlikely that the venue for his hometown ATP event, in Basel, will be renamed as the Roger Federer Arena.
In recent years, there has been a push to rename St. Jakobshalle after the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
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St Jakoobshalle hosts the annual Basel indoors ATP 500 event, which Federer has won ten times so far (2006–2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2017–2019). Born in Basel, Federer used to live in the suburb where the sports arena is located. He has also been a ball boy at the Basel ATP event.
The Swiss is known to throw pizza parties for the ball kids after the final on Sunday. But a bid to rename the venue ‘Roger Federer Arena’ has again hit a roadblock.
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According to the local rules, a motion like this is only heard by city officials if it has more than 3000 signatures. But the fan petition on the name change received only 1800 signatures. Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS reported that the efforts were mainly hampered due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview last year, Federer had said that it would be an ‘honour’ for him if the venue was indeed renamed after him.
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“It would be an absolute, incredible honour for me,” he told the newspaper Tages Anzeige.
“They asked me if I was against this petition. I said no, I’d be happy if it happened. But I would understand if it didn’t work out.
“Other people should decide that, not me. That’s why I haven’t made any major statements yet. It should just go its way.
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“But it would be extremely honorable. I see what it means to Rod Laver or Roy Emerson when you can have a stadium named after you and experience it.”
One of the reasons for this extraordinary snub by local fans, could be that the Swiss usually honour their great after they have passed away.
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In 2019, UK newspaper The Express, quoted Basel-based politician Martina Bernasconi as saying, “The main arguments have been that Switzerland and Basel only honour dead people. And that Federer is a brand and he wants money.”
But Bernasconi admitted that Federer was still the, “most popular ambassador for Switzerland.”
The 39-year-old, who underwent knee surgery this year, is likely to compete at next year’s Australian Open.