Mauro’s report from Halle – part 2: Mauro meets Stefan Edberg
Read part 1 of Mauro’s report here.
Where to start from? When you have the chance to meet your childhood idol, suddenly every word becomes foreseen. So I would like to begin from the kindness of the staff at the press office of the Gerry Weber Open. It was only thanks to them that, without any media credential, I managed to access the press conference of the Champions Trophy and, believe it or not, without really knowing how, I found myself sitting in the first row, watching the winners of 70 Grand Slam tournaments combined speak, two meters away from the man I had always only watched on tv and who was the owner of my feelings back in my teenage days.
I was there, waiting to come in at a sign of the tournament communication director after all the players had ended speaking. He, indeed, introduced me to Stefan who saw me and smiled at me, when he recognized the outfit I was wearing: «Ah… and he has a nice Adidas jacket!», he said, maybe going back with his memory to 25 years ago, when he lifted his second Australian Open trophy with that on.
I was not shaking as I thought I would be, it was such an informal situation, after all, and, no need to say, Stefan is surely not the guy who makes you feel uncomfortable or out of place. I had the chance of shaking his hand and came in with very straight words:
«Hello, Stefan, nice to meet you. My name is Mauro and I’m from Italy. I’m the admin of STE…fans, the international fan community dedicated to you. I want to give you this special screenshot of the home page of my site in memory of this day, that, for me, ranks at the very top of the best moments that I had in my life».
Stefan didn’t know of the site (secretly I hoped he would…), but nevertheless he said: «Thanks very much, I appreciate it!». Then, he came down to the space before the seats in the media room and kindly accepted to take pictures of the moment. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to exchange more words with him. But, just the meeting itself was an extraordinary opportunity that I received from the tournament staff only thanks to the quality of my work and, maybe, to the human interest of the story of a fan who had flown to Westphalia from Italy just to hand his hero a little gift.
Two days before the Champions Trophy, I had been contacted by the press office, that, unexpectedly replied to my request for a private meeting with Stefan I had sent just for trying before leaving for Germany. Her kind email started this way: «Dear Mr. Cappiello, it is great to hear how much work and passion you put into the Edberg-Fanclub…». She informed me that no private meeting was possible, but a short fan meeting for giving Stefan our fan award was maybe within the reach of the tournament organization at the end of the post-match interview.
I hadn’t got the chance to film the press conference or take photos of it. That was only for the officially registered media journalists. Nevertheless, I can report what Stefan said, that, after all, is not so different from what he said during the on court interview, just after the match (I filmed that and you’ll soon be able to see it on the site). Stefan said he had played an exhibition on grass in Sweden with Magnus Larsson, just the day before the Champions Trophy, ‘cause, «believe it or not, they’ve finally built two grass courts there, with the weather that we have…».
He had words of appreciation for the tournament and the stadium, for the grass that reminded him of his Wimbledon days. He recalled that he had never played in Halle during his career and that he had had the intention of playing in 1996, his last year on the Tour, but he had got injured just before the tournament.
The press interview was quite short. There were just two questions from after the moderator’s routine interview and they were both for Stefan. It was a pity I was not even allowed to talk to players… I wouldn’t have let sports heroes like Stefan Edberg and Martina Navratilova, a woman who has won 58 Grand Slam titles, has been an icon of human rights, has defeated cancer and has attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, get away before a burst of machine-gun fire of questions. But that was it!