On the eve of the Laureus World Sports Award completing 20 years of its existence, Roger Federer spoke about Laureus' first patron - the late Nelson Mandela, who was also the first president of post-apartheid South Africa.
The first Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony was held in 2000, during which the award's patron Nelson Mandela delivered an iconic speech. Fondly remembered by his clan name 'Madiba', Nelson Mandela uttered these famous words during in Monte Carlo on 25 May 2000 - words that resonated around the globe:
"Sport has the power to change the world."
On the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's inspiring words, Roger Federer expressed regret that he couldn't meet the legendary leader during his visit to South Africa in 2004.
"I am unfortunate that I have never been able to meet Nelson Mandela. I didn't go back to South Africa for, I think, 10 years after I was there in 2004. I think the last time, maybe, that would have been an opportunity to go and meet him, but it didn't happen."
Roger Federer, who also holds a South African passport because his mother hails from that country, then proceeded to speak about Nelson Mandela - the person. The 20-time Grand Slam champion described the late Mandela as 'incredibly influential and inspiring':
"So what do I think of him as a person? I think he's been incredibly influential and inspiring on so many levels. My mum is from South Africa. I have the South African passport still myself, and so do my kids. So I feel very connected to the country."
Roger Federer concluded by saying that the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner 'changed the country in a positive way', by championing the cause of democracy and social justice. South Africa faced international isolation for decades due to its discriminatory apartheid policy, and Nelson Mandela was instrumental in getting his countrymen out of that phase.
"He changed the country in a very positive way. So yeah, we can't be thankful enough to him (for) what he has given to the country," said Roger Federer.
Roger Federer is the most decorated Laureus sportsman
Incidentally, Roger Federer happens to be the most decorated sportsman in the history of the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards. The 38-year-old Swiss has won five Sportsman of the Year awards and one for Comeback of the Year.
Roger Federer won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year in four consecutive years from 2005 to 2009. The Swiss was at his dominant best during that period, winning 11 Grand Slam titles.
Federer won his fifth and latest award in this category in 2018. The then 36-year-old became the oldest player in the Open Era to successfully defend a Grand Slam title (2018 Australian Open) that year, and also became the oldest player to be ranked World No. 1.
The right-hander was also bestowed the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2018.
The latest recipient of the Laureus Sportsman of the Year is a certain Lionel Messi.