Match for Africa 6: Federer and Nadal to play record-making fundraiser in Cape Town
Federer: “This really connects all the dots—playing tennis, raising money, and doing it in South Africa, which is very special to me.”
Encouraged by his parents, the then 22-year-old Roger Federer marked his first Major tennis victory, at Wimbledon in 2003, by launching his own charitable foundation.
More than 16 years and 20 Majors later, the Roger Federer Foundation has supported 1.5 million children via School Readiness Initiatives in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Switzerland, and has invested more than $52 million in educational programs in 7,000 primary and pre-schools.
In the last decade, a significant portion of his fundraising effort has come from a series of exhibition tennis events. The first was played in 2010 in Zurich against Rafael Nadal, and this week, the same two superstars will play the sixth Match for Africa—and for the first time, it will take place in Africa itself, in Cape Town.
They will lock horns in the vast Cape Town Stadium, in an attempt also to set a new world record for the most spectators to watch a tennis match—a target of over 50,000—and as a curtain raiser, they will join with Bill Gates and Trevor Noah in a celebrity-pro doubles match.
And on this occasion, the Swiss star expects to experience more emotions than usual in his sixth Match for Africa. He knows the country very well, for South Africa is the birthplace of his mother, and the Federer family spent many holidays there when he and his sister were children.
“This Match in Africa is a dream come true. I’m very happy to be back in South Africa, and I’m excited that this match is finally around the corner. I have family here and have been wanting to come back for years.
“This really connects all the dots—playing tennis, raising money, and doing it in South Africa, which is very special to me. I think it’s going to be quite emotional because I’ve been wanting to play in South Africa for years. I loved my vacations here as a boy. I remember them like yesterday and I wish I could have come more in the last 20 years.”
He went on to talk about his friendly rivalry with 19-time Major champion Nadal:
“It’s nice to call one of your biggest rivals your friend. He’s got his way of life in Majorca and I have mine, but we see each other on the road and we do a lot of promotions together. We really enjoy getting together.
“We share not only the love for tennis but also for the good cause of giving children a better start in education and in life. And I feel privileged to have other leading philanthropists on board to entertain millions of people in the stadium and on TV. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for my family and I.”
Nadal, who has come hot-foot from his own special event, the inauguration of the latest Rafa Nadal Academy in Kuwait, where he played an exhibition with David Ferrer, said of his venture with Federer:
“Roger and I have shared so many magical moments on and off the court. Travelling with him to Cape Town and playing for the benefit of children is something I am very excited about. It will be my first time in the region with Roger as a tour guide—that will be fun.”
Federer admitted in a recent interview with Swiss journalist Simon Graf for Tages Anzeiger that his South African passport has expired, but went on:
“As a little boy, I was in South Africa two months a year… We always spent the summer vacation in South Africa, visited family members all over the country, made trips to the Kruger National Park. That’s why I feel very connected to this country.”
No surprise, then, that this trip will attempt to reunite Federer with his mother’s family and friends once the fundraising work is done:
“That is why this trip is so special. I will meet many who I have not seen in a long time. That’s why we organized a big party… it was important to me not to just play the game and then go away. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. And I know it means a lot to my parents.”*
However, Federer’s journey to Africa in the aftermath of his semi-final run at the Australian Open did not start in Cape Town. He first spent time in Namibia, visiting an Early Childhood Development Centre and a primary school funded by the Foundation, and meeting with the President of the Republic of Namibia, Hage Geingob, to discuss the importance of early childhood education.
Match in Africa 6: Cape Town Stadium, 7 February
(available to view on Tennis TV and other worldwide media)
7.30pm Pro-celebrity doubles: Federer with Bill Gates vs Nadal with Trevor Noah
8pm the Ndlovu Youth Choir and Zip Zap Circus
8.30pm Federer vs Nadal
For more information: www.match-in-africa.com
More on the Foundation and its work: rogerfedererfoundation.org/en/home
*Thanks to Doris La Rubia for the English translation