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"Roger Federer in Switzerland would be equivalent to the royal family in the UK" - Swiss abbot who is related to the tennis superstar

Roger Federer
Roger Federer
Modified 26 Mar 2021

One of Roger Federer's biographers, Dave Seminara, recently revealed some interesting and unheard-of anecdotes about the 39-year-old. And a few of those come from Urban Federer, who is an abbot at the Einsiedeln Abbey in Schwyz.

Abbot Federer conducted the baptism of all of Roger Federer's children. But more interestingly, he is a distant relative of the 20-time Slam champion, with a common ancestry dating back to the 16th century.

Dave Seminara, meanwhile, is the author of 'Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts'. In the book, Seminara has deeply explored the life and ways of Roger Federer when he stays in Switzerland.

Revealing a few tidbits of his book in a recent New York Times article, Seminara has showcased the love that Swiss people have for the 20-time Major champion. In particular, Seminara recalled how Urban Federer had likened the 39-year-old's status in Switzerland to that of the Royal Family in Britain.

The Abbot also claimed, however, that Swiss people are not very comfortable when it comes to hero worship, so they are often confused about how to 'treat' Roger Federer.

"Roger would be equivalent to something like the royal family in the UK," Urban Federer said. "But here in Switzerland, we’ve never had a super-famous star, so we don’t know how to treat him because we don’t revere people here."
Abbot Urban Federer (Credit: Lauryn Ishak for The New York Times)
Abbot Urban Federer (Credit: Lauryn Ishak for The New York Times)

According to Dave Seminara, Urban Federer earlier had trouble getting people to spell and pronounce the name 'Federer'. But such issues are history now, since Roger Federer's name is recognized all over the world today.

"You know, before Roger became famous, I always used to have to spell my name," Urban Federer told Seminara. "But now everyone knows the name Federer."

Seminara further revealed that Abbot Urban Federer keenly follows matches involving the eight-time Wimbledon champion. In fact, the Abbot also expressed his desire for Novak Djokovic to not surpass Federer's records.

"I hope Djokovic doesn’t win any more titles," the Abbot told Seminara. "I don’t want him to catch Roger."
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

During his visit to Switzerland, Dave Seminara also met Daniel Altermatt - a Swiss councilperson from Munchenstein which was Roger Federer's childhood hometown in Basel. Altermatt explained to Seminara that the region does not have any alleys, streets or houses named after Roger Federer, because it is illegal to do so in Switzerland until the person concerned has breathed his last.

"We have a local regulation prohibiting us from naming anything after anyone who is still alive," Altermatt explained to Seminara. "So if we want to name something after Roger, we’d have to kill him first."

The name 'Federer' dates all the way back to the Middle Ages

Roger Federer has a rich ancestry
Roger Federer has a rich ancestry

During his trip to Switzerland, Dave Seminara learned a great deal about Roger Federer's ancestry.

According to Seminara, the Federers originally hailed from the municipality of Berneck on the Switzerland-Austria border. They got their name because they were professional scribes, and the word 'Federer' was derived from the German 'Feder' meaning quill or feather, with which they usually wrote.

In short, Roger Federer's ancestors were scribes who originated somewhere around the 5th century.

Seminara also revealed that Berneck is home to a large number of Federers, who are all in some way or the other related to the Swiss legend. But the Federer clan has had its fair share of troubles and drama in the past.

According to Seminara, a certain segment of the extensive Federer family was cast out in 1848. They were blamed by the rest of the Federer clan for a fire that ravaged Berneck that year.

Published 26 Mar 2021, 17:28 IST
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