Dear Federer, why would you choose to #BleedBlue?

Published: February 17, 2015
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PHOTO: ROGER FEDERER FACEBOOK PAGE

PHOTO: ROGER FEDERER FACEBOOK PAGE

Hi Roger,

You know, I’ve never picked up a tennis racket in my entire life.

Nor had I watched much tennis until my mother made me watch Wimbledon, in Karachi, in 2006.  She wanted me to root for Rafa (Rafael Nadal), whom she adores. But I became totally mesmerised by you instead. As David Foster Wallace would later say about you,

“Just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired.

And boy was I inspired.

Roger Federer at the O2 in London. Photo: AFP

I started following tennis for the aesthetic high of watching you play. And for the ideological high that you might become the greatest tennis player ever.

On a typical day, I’d spend an hour reading about you, and doing statistical analysis about you. And another hour watching old highlights. A quarter of my Facebook posts were about you. My phone screen showed you winning Roland Garros in 2009.

Dozing off, in between visions of Shahid Afridi mauling India in a World Cup final, I would imagine all the points in your career that I would change if I could: Match Point vs Marat Safin in Melbourne in 2005, Match Point vs Rafa in Rome in 2006,  30-0, 5-4, second set vs Juan Martin in New York in 2009 and the Break Point, fifth set vs Novak Djokovic in London in 2014.

Photos: AFP

Your relationship with Mirka became, and remains, an inspiration for my wife and me. Without my wife’s support I could never have overcome the difficult times in our five years together. So we just love, love, love the fact that Mirka has been the difference between you becoming The Greatest, and you remaining in the pack of men you surpassed.

Roger with his wife Mirka Federer. Photo: AFP

All standard stuff, really. Like thousands of other fans across the world whose lives your tennis has touched. And this doesn’t even include your philanthropy.

But sadly it’s time to say farewell. And yes, this has to do with the picture you posted holding the Indian team shirt, and the hashtag #BleedBlue, overtly signifying loyalty to India.

Before I go further, I want to say that it’s completely understandable that you would want to root for India. They are an incredible side. You’ve personally met the legend Sachin Tendulkar. It’s a very welcoming country and you were given an adoring welcome there. Heck, so was I when I visited! So I get why you would want to support India.

Roger playing with Deepika Padukone (L) and meeting Sachin Tendulkar (R). Photos: AFP

(Of course like any red-blooded Pakistani, I would want to change your mind by telling you about the invention, magic and genius that characterise our cricket. Not to mention our 72-50 lead over India in all matches.)

But no, I’m not upset that you chose to support India over Pakistan. I’m upset that you chose to support India over Pakistan, publicly. This made it seem like your Pakistani fans are expendable.

Let’s be clear. In India, posting this picture was a stroke of genius. It has thousands of comments from your Indian fans like:

“Love you Roger, I have become a bigger fan!”

It currently has more than 25,ooo Likes and 31,000 Shares. That far surpasses your previous ten posts, which had an average of 60,000 likes and 1,100 shares. It has generated tremendous goodwill for you in the largest untapped tennis market on Earth. Who wouldn’t want that?

Inevitably though, in Pakistan it had the opposite effect. After you posted the picture, I did an informal poll of the dozen biggest Pakistani Roger fans I know. All very serious fans, mind you. Two of them were not bothered by the picture. But 10 of the 12 felt seriously hurt or betrayed. Six of those 10 said you had acted “like a sell-out” and have stopped supporting you altogether.

I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just a Pakistan chip-on-shoulder about India. So I wrote to a Kiwi friend who is a Roger die-hard. And an All-Black fanatic, obviously. I asked how he would feel if you were to publicly support Australia over the All-Blacks in the Rugby World Cup. Immediately he responded:

“I’d be hurt and upset. Pissed off as well.”

This got me thinking. Suppose India’s acrimonious cricket rivals had been China instead of Pakistan.  Would you or your sponsors have endorsed a public show of support for India over China? Of course not! It would have been brand suicide! The publicity gain in India would not have been worth the cost.

Worth the cost.

At its essence therefore, this public display of support for India represents a ruthless valuation of your Pakistani fans, based on their economic and brand impact. Effectively, you are saying that our feelings and opinions are acceptable collateral damage for publicity in India.  That we are expendable, in a way that fans from a larger country wouldn’t be.

And the truth is, in tennis economic terms, compared to Indian fans, we Pakistani fans are indeed expendable. But hearing that truth spelled out publicly, and almost directly, by you, hurts like hell.

So, where does this leave us?

It’s widely known you are humble, kind and sensitive to a fault. I suspect that if this letter reaches you, you may wish to make amends. I hope you find a way. I’m sure a positive gesture about Pakistan will win you back many of the people whom this picture alienated.

Sadly, I won’t be one of them. I was in too deep. So this morning I deleted over a hundred Roger posts from my Facebook wall as well as the photo collection I had painstakingly put together. I also donated my RF cap and my collection of books about you.

I will always respect you, love your game and wish you success. I just won’t be along with you for the ride.

Sincerely yours,

Sulaiman Ijaz

This post was originally published on The Express Tribune blogs page

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Hassan
    Feb 17, 2015 - 8:01PM

    Relax, it’s just a game.Recommend

  • Adhitya Hegde
    Feb 17, 2015 - 8:04PM

    @Author. We feel your pain. You need to understand that he plays for India in the IPTL sponsors of both Bcci and IPTL. That leaves him with very little choice. If they send him a Jersey and ask him to tweet about it. He has to oblige!Recommend

  • Shehryar Ahmed
    Feb 17, 2015 - 8:29PM

    True dat author. We are really hurt :'( But this is what life is. Money prevails every time.Recommend

  • Hasan
    Feb 17, 2015 - 9:27PM

    Very well written article. I must say that when I first saw this picture, I sort of by passed it thinking its a choice Roger has made supporting a team, which anyone has the right to do. It did hurt then as well, but reading the hypothesis here its hard to digest all that from an icon you respect so much.

    So to Roger, “Sir, My book shelf has a few of your books, the largest frame in my study room (larger than my own post graduation frames) is your first Wimbledon picture, which you signed for me in Dubai. To this day I fight with my wife to support you when she brings in stats of Nadal who she supported. I own half a dozen of RF caps in different colors just because I like buying them so much. I watch your matches with my RF jacket pulled on and an RF cap on my head, and that is the televised matches. Yes, that is the level of my enthusiasm to support you…”

    I don’t say it will all go away with this public support of Indian fans but certainly it wont be the same either. And that is painful! Making a statement about your un biased respect for your fans across the globe including Pakistan, will certainly help to pacify this. Recommend

  • Hamza
    Feb 17, 2015 - 9:33PM

    I think Federer doesn’t knows he has fans in Pakistan. Poor GuyRecommend

  • Yashi
    Feb 17, 2015 - 10:17PM

    It’s merely a game!! And everyone has the right to express his feelings. Am sure he hasn’t thought of his act in this way and never meant to offend anyone!! A simple act has been elevated to national interest and rivalry, which is so not done!! I am an Indian and if I support Pakistan in some (which of course, won’t be against India) that doesn’t and shouldn’t mean am offending others. it’s my personal choice and I’ve all rights regarding it. No one can force me for this!!Recommend

  • Ajay
    Feb 17, 2015 - 11:41PM

    It should matter who Federer supports. Even if he decided to support Pakistan I would always love Federer. And seeing that the author is also a big Federer fan I sincerely hope he changes his mind.Recommend

  • Ram
    Feb 17, 2015 - 11:52PM

    Come on, guy, this shot only shows him opening a package and looking at the contents of the box he received. If I received Chinese shrimp paste or the Swedish Surstromming (have you ever smelled them?) from anywhere as a gift, I’d be happy someone thought of me and sent me what – for them – is a delicacy. It doesn’t mean I like them or going to consume them. I’ll smile, send a thank you email…. Well, maybe Roger supports India. Raffa who travels frequently to India because he supports charities does too but he might not care about cricket. Steve Waugh does for the same reason and he’s too good a cricketer to not support India ;-) All that said, if Roger supports India with whatever little knowledge he has of cricket or the nuances of Pak-India rivalry, it does NOT mean he’s making a call BETWEEN India/Pakistan. It does not mean he doesn’t like Pakistan or Pakistan cricket. I love Roger’s game and personality too. If he had bet his emotions with Pakistan, it wouldn’t pinch me. I would still love his game and personality. He’s THAT good. I have supported Pakistan teams more than any other team than India. In fact, when Waqar, Wasim, Imran, Miandad, etc. played against India, I was really split between who to support. By the way, I love Wasim Akram and Zaheer Abbas but perhaps you’re too young to know them and their game (like Younis and Ajmal these day – decent blokes). No matter they kill India at a game or say bad stuff about India. As a matter of fact, they don’t have to say bad stuff – they let their game speak.

    THAT is the reason why you and I love Roger. The grace and inner strength – off and on the court. So, let’s keep it to that. You’re free to bet against or bad mouth India. You are a fan of Pak cricket, I expect nothing less. But that’s not enough for me to not respect you or hate you. In fact, I find your plea quite endearing. So, as an older guy, let me suggest you reconsider your emotions and welcome back to the We Love Roger Club. Cheers!Recommend

  • Zul Qarnain
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:13AM

    Dear author, I am convinced by your article. A professional star has to keep up his reputation around the globe. His words or actions must not offend any person, race and culture. He should always try to shape his sayings very carefully. However, he has the right of choice. He supports India; it is not that he hates Pakistan but rather, he is entertaining something very natural that every human being does so. Therefore, it is not a big deal that he supports India. However, I agree that Roger F should do something to cheer up the Pakistani fans. Recommend

  • Emode
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:35AM

    Suliaman you hsve my respect. Beyond every reason, I feel the pain you feel. I stand by you.

    On a separate note, a lesson learned for all of us, we should listen to our parents :)Recommend

  • In the name of love (what more)
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:48AM

    So many times before have international stars taken sides, at times in favour of Pakistan. That’s all right! One has to be extremely small minded and small hearted to be hurt just coz the guy supports the opponent team. For God’s sake! its not as if he is supporting India on kashmir! And you call yourself his admirer! supporting him with a condition that he must not support your opponent team!! And this is when, he hasn’t said a word against Pakistan! Recommend

  • Jaideep Katuri
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:52AM

    Now, wait a minute. First off, I am having a hard time deciding if this is a serious article or a satire. I even have scrolled up to see if it was meant to be a satire but looks like it’s actually a regular piece unless I have missed it. So I am going to address it as such.

    Since when has supporting India in a sporting event become equivalent to ‘treating Pakistani fans as expendable’? Even if you want to give it the most negative spin possible and believe Federer did it to increase his fan base (take a second to think about how hilarious a notion that is) or did it because his sponsors told him to, why should he care about some get political issue that is thousands of miles away from his home? Now, if SOME Pakistani fans want to feel offended, that’s entirely their problem and shouldn’t bother Federer in the least. In fact, I think he will be happy to have them leave.

    Also, it seems perfectly believable that Federer actually could have reasons to support India. Like the author mentioned he is a friend of Tendulkar, has recently been to India and seemed to be enthralled by it.

    Either way, it makes no logical sense to give up supporting a Swiss tennis star based on historical differences between two cricket playing south Asian nations. And if you have 10 friends who think otherwise, it’s time to get new friends my friend. Recommend

  • Magic cap
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:57AM

    So you mean to say Argentinians would be hurt if Afridi ever chooses to support Brazil in football?
    Is it such a big deal? Recommend

  • MUSA
    Feb 18, 2015 - 1:00AM

    very well written. Indeed Roger could have played it safe and neutral. However, he chose to totally alienate the Pakistani fans and follow economic benefits. It surely is time to say good bye to roger federer. If we are expendable to him then he is no more our hero either. Recommend

  • Ibrahim
    Feb 18, 2015 - 1:03AM

    This got me thinking. Suppose India’s acrimonious cricket rivals had been China instead of Pakistan. Would you or your sponsors have endorsed a public show of support for India over China? Of course not! It would have been brand suicide! The publicity gain in India would not have been worth the cost.
    Worth the cost.

    Couldn’t have said it better. Sorry federer you have lost my respectRecommend

  • Rahul
    Feb 18, 2015 - 1:04AM

    my dear pakistani brother,
    it would have been fine if something like this was written by a 12-15 year old fan, but you are in a mature age ( you said you are married).
    bhai, as you yourself mentioned..this all has much to do with simple economics..the position where india is ..no one can afford to lose the indian market. same goes true with china. hence,your comparison with china is also most probably correct. further RF also plays for delhi in the International Premier Tennis League.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InternationalPremierTennis_League

    dont take it to heart..he surely has no special love either for china, india or pakistan..its all just about the money.

    i can understand that you feel not that great by what RF did..but he didnt do this because he is an india fan..he just did it because his sponsors have stakes in india.Recommend

  • Shehryar
    Feb 18, 2015 - 1:18AM

    relax… he got paid for it. It’s just a game… however, nadal is still the best sportsman after Mohammad Ali.Recommend

  • Waqas Ahmad
    Feb 18, 2015 - 1:43AM

    Roger Federer’s clothing is sponsored by Nike; who also sponsor the kit of Indian Cricket Team. NIKE has sent many Indian celebs personalised kits to boost kit sales. This is one of the publicity stunt.Recommend

  • Shamima
    Feb 18, 2015 - 2:18AM

    Grow up, writer! This is really childish! Recommend

  • Abdul Khan
    Feb 18, 2015 - 2:36AM

    What is the problem in our mindset in Pakistan? We are so obsessed with any thing and everything related to “India”. For God sake, highlight only about Pakistan. I am throughly disappointed and distressed with such not so meaningful write up. Let us work hard to build our image.You will be surprised to see the same Roger will hold Pakistan jersey in near future. Lt us make “India-free and Pakistan only” discourses.Recommend

  • Dezzyyy
    Feb 18, 2015 - 3:12AM

    This article is utterly stupid. Youre a fundamentalist of cricket of all things hahah. you like judge people based on what sport team they follow. Are you offended that Roger (or anyone else for that matter) likes Brazilian football or prefers Italian food or watches American movies or listens to English music or drives a German car. Recommend

  • Jeff Gorecki
    Feb 18, 2015 - 3:40AM

    @Hassan: I completely understand your feeling but also totally disagree. I have been a R F fan since 2001 while living in Switzerland, but I also feel that athletes of this caliber, as well as all people should be able to support any team or other athlete without loosing my support. On another topic, I wish they had cricket on the tele here. It looks like a fascinating game and I’d love to see Pakistan play. Perhaps I would become a huge fan. Best Wishes from Wisconsin.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Feb 18, 2015 - 5:56AM

    Roger Federer bleeds blue because he is a personal friend of Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin often goes and watches Federer play at Wimbledon, usually by the Courtside. Being friends they socialize too. It is not uncommon for Champions across Sports to be friends, when one is down and out he often seeks advise from the other. Even Michael Schumacher was a very good friend of SachinRecommend

  • Feb 18, 2015 - 6:15AM

    Pakistan live in a binary world. Pro-India means anti-Pakistan. Pro-Pakistan means anti-India.

    This is not even consistent. This is easily forgotten when convenient. Pakistan accepts US aid, despite its closeness to India. Watching Bollywood. Uses computer software where India would have contribued either in development or support. Recommend

  • Sahu
    Feb 18, 2015 - 6:42AM

    @Hamza:
    He obviously doesn’t care about them. Recommend

  • Noone
    Feb 18, 2015 - 7:17AM

    Probably because nike is a sponser for both the indian team and Federer …….either ways i dont careRecommend

  • Feb 18, 2015 - 7:29AM

    Crap, too much emotional….just a game, totally outdated mentality human being..probably still live in caveRecommend

  • akshat
    Feb 18, 2015 - 7:49AM

    One champion always support for another champion. Recommend

  • PB02
    Feb 18, 2015 - 8:28AM

    Grow up, and get a lifeRecommend

  • Mouli
    Feb 18, 2015 - 9:04AM

    Sick article. It seems that you people will be ready to send Wasim Akram to exile since he is with Star Sports commentary team and is related with IPL.Recommend

  • Feb 18, 2015 - 10:15AM

    What a childish piece. Im amazed it even got printed! Wow ETRecommend

  • ghjk
    Feb 18, 2015 - 11:42AM

    Seriously?Recommend

  • Silvester
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:39PM

    Wow Wow Wow. So much of emotion. I fully undertand your emotion. But i feel it a bit childish. My greatest sports idols are Steffi Graf and Michael Schumacher. I wouldn’t have too bothered if they supported pakistan or spurs

    I hated Robin Van Persie when he moved to Manchester United but when you see him play you have to love him because you love the game not just the personRecommend

  • Abdul Malik
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:48PM

    LOL More than worrying about Rogers support please worry about your players attitude, your fielding coach just resigned.Become someone worth supporting first, instead of whining and playing the victim card at every opportunity. And why, may I ask Roger should support you ? not like you’ve been winning the CWC previous few years or performing extremely well in Intl. cricket, or that your country has performed in any manner in the world stage.

    Stop whining.Recommend

  • Pete Sampras
    Feb 18, 2015 - 12:53PM

    This is why journalism in Pakistan is soo immature.Recommend

  • Sanjay
    Feb 18, 2015 - 1:19PM

    Obviously, your support for RF should be independent of who he is as a person, cause lets face it we don’t really know who he is as a person, we can guess based on the media interaction and bytes – but you can never be sure who he is or what his personal preferences are- and you should never bother either- given your love our for his tennis.

    Sure it hurts to see someone you love support a rival, but that is his choice. What a curse his fame would be if he has to mute who he is or what he likes on social media just cause fans would run away.

    I am sorry, your views are dated- it is a shame such articles get printed in 2015 as all they do is spread hate and create divide and condemn people for their personal choices.

    PS. You would rather not speculate between India and China support. Recommend

  • Sidhant Hasija
    Feb 18, 2015 - 4:11PM

    Hi,
    You made logic there for quite a good part, but tell your board to send him a Green Pakistani short and he would proudly flaunt it on social media just like the Blue one,
    and don’t you see the NIKE connection here…?Recommend

  • Bilal
    Feb 18, 2015 - 5:12PM

    If PCB had sent him a Pakistani shirt, I am sure he would have wore that too :p Relax, I am sure he supports Pakistan equally as India. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have gone to wish congrats to Aisam in dressing room when Aisam beat him in doubles match .. Recommend

  • Sidhant Hasija
    Feb 18, 2015 - 6:02PM

    @Bilal
    True mate. So you know that better.
    But this should be the argument in response to the article, rather than my comment.
    And to me congratulating Aisam looks rather than sportsmanship irrespective of country. Recommend

  • james
    Feb 18, 2015 - 8:24PM

    So what if he supports India? Fed supports the Boks over the All Blacks because his mum is from South Africa. Does that mean he doesn’t care about his fans from NZ anymore? It is as you said, he’s friends with Sachin, has been paid millions during the IPTL and theyve got the same sponsor with the indian cricket team-Nike. Does that mean he’s not allowed to voice his opinions anymore?

    This is like Sharapova all over again when she said she didn’t know who Sachin was and heaps of Indians were butthurt about it. Recommend

  • A rehan
    Feb 19, 2015 - 12:28AM

    Loser!!Recommend

  • Vikram
    Feb 19, 2015 - 1:09AM

    Come on, whats wrong with you people? The author is indeed delusional and has grandiose ideas about himself and his country if he thinks that this is going to sway Roger Federer supporting a particular cricket team over other. For heaven’s sake, he might not even know where Pakistan is located on the world map! The fact is that he might not even know the political significance attached by some people attach to a simple game of cricket – and even if he did, he has every right to pick out his own team to cheer. If any association to India is so offensive to you guys, why don’t you ban the Pakistani sportsmen, commentators, actors, musicians falling over backwards to work in India? To say that one stops admiring a great tennis player just because he supports a rival cricket team is the most petulant thing I have heard in my life. Recommend

  • DaShizz
    Feb 19, 2015 - 3:55AM

    Please form a sentence, and apply it to your life, with the words “grow” and “up”Recommend

  • Chris
    Feb 19, 2015 - 3:12PM

    Dear Sulaiman Ijaz, thank you for your wonderful posting, it showes that you really wher very passionat about the sport and Roger. I do not watch sport so I dont have any favourits. I also do not write to you as a swiss, more as a citizen of this wonderful planet. I have been to Pakistan once in my live and I enjoyed a big hospitality from your people. Never been to India. I do not understand your pain, as this is a pain you generated yourself. Roger did not intentionaly harm you with this photo. If it hurts you, it is your problem. We might want to think about the term love, and specialy unconditional love. I do also not agree with all the love statements of the indian fans. The love him now because of this tshirt? Next week he will hold a Pakistan tshirt, and then, they will hate him? This sounds so unreasonable. I do not know what kind of believe you have. I am sure, it is telling you about love. How you want to interpret this love is your thing. You do not need to answer me, but if you read this lines, please go over your books again, and reconcider judging this very inspiring man. We are all one my dear Sulaiman Ijaz, the rivalities between us are made for a reason not visible to us. They profit from that! Lets not play there game. I am not even going to watch this game or any other, but I am thankful that we have a chance that at least in sport countries get together and can play. As for myself, I wish you a long peaceful life with your loved ones, and hope you will use your great gift of writing to continue to write inspiring articels for all of us, thank you and big hug!Recommend

  • rehan
    Feb 21, 2015 - 12:25AM

    Illogical article to say the least! Would u have been equally hurt had he been supporting Australia in an aus vs. pak match? No right? I guess the origin of the article rests in our deep rooted hatred for India and nothing else. And that my friend is indeed a sad state of affairs.Recommend

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