Dear Federer, why would you choose to #BleedBlue?

Published: February 17, 2015

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 during the Pakistan-India match. You were holding the Indian team shirt, and posted it with the hashtag #BleedBlue, overtly signifying support for India over Pakistan.

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 85-64 lead over India in matches across all three formats.)

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 250,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

Sulaiman Ijaz

Sulaiman Ijaz

The writer is a Phd student in Economics at the University of Cambridge. He is researching the education of young children in developing countries. Previously, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • huha fikari

    you all people dont know the love for tennis…ofcourse the one person you adore and consider him ones idol,,,you’d not like that person going against pakistan in any match,,and roger did the same and broke thousands of pakistani peoples heartRecommend

  • sportsfan

    . Roger Federer has every right to express his opinion and support to any team he wants. Don’t be jealous. And yes accept the fact that Pakistan lost , India loves Federer and Federer loves India. End of the story.Recommend

  • Kiran Nambiar

    Hi Ijaz , this is a wonderful write up. I totally understand your point. I would have deeply hurt if Fedx would have supported Pakistan over India. But yeah when his nation isn’t playing he would like to support a team he can connect to. May be the reason he supported is cos of the recent Indian exposure he had. I would like like to let you know that many Indians support Pakistan cricket team when you are not playing against India. . I really liked the way you put it across. To be frank I am not a cricketfan I watch only when India play Pakistan :D . let’s admire sports in Peace!! Recommend

  • Nana

    It is sad that you feel this way.

    He has every right to choose whichever side he pleases.

    The only thing apparent from this piece is your hatred of india. No sane person would take the purely personal choices of an individual this seriously.

    During the football world cup people from the sub continent support countries other than theirs. No one cares if it is Italy, France or Brazil. How is this any different? Recommend

  • Kmk

    I understand the Indians going all gaga about it, we would have done the same. But the author has the right to express himself as well. I fully support him, as a celeb you got to be careful of what you say and do. Tomorrow they will support Jon Terrry as well…..Recommend

  • John

    Wow so much butthurt.Recommend

  • askids

    “I was in too deep” – only thing that you were deep in was your thoughts. Good that you donated your RF cap and collections. Somebody who has a better attitude and understand the spirit of sports would have benefited., you did something good for somebody else. Thanks for your contribution!.Recommend

  • askids

    As a show of support to RF and goodwill to Swiss, I will support the politicians having black money in swiss bank accounts…LOLRecommend

  • Vikram

    People have a right to express opinion on a blog published on a public forum. If you think that this is bullying, you might want to refrain from posting such nonsensical articles.Recommend

  • Rachel

    Indian here, and primarily a tennis fan. Was taken aback when I saw that picture posted by Federer, that was just unusual and didn’t sound right. All the people who say Pakistanis are overreacting , I’d like to ask you what your reaction would have been if he had held a Pakistani jersey and openly supported Pakistan instead. I am sure he’d have been taken to the cleaners on social media.

    It was probably a move initiated by Nike who sponsors Federer and the Indian team like they always do (think of Federer supporting Tiger Woods for example). I also think it was done because Federer and Nike know that his fanbase in India is relatively bigger and has the potential to add on more with this move. But whatever it is, it wasn’t in good taste. Especially because it is definitely not genuine , as in a personal choice, clearly a Nike influenced marketing move. I cringed when I saw it.Recommend

  • Rachel

    During the 1999 (or was it 1996) cricket world cup, there was this really nice Pepsi ad which was aired on Indian TV which went “hum hai pakistani hum to jeetenge haan jeetenge…har maidan mein har toofan mein,har mushkil mein jeetenge”….I was so surprised that it was aired on Indian TV at all where Pakistanis are saying “hum jeetenge” :) but it was so catchy. And then they suddenly took it off air after a few days, probably realizing that they were airing it in the wrong country :)Recommend

  • Sagnik Sinha

    So supporting India means going against Pakistan??? Roger Federer as supporting India has got nothing to do against Pakistan… Recommend

  • Siddharth Kedar

    ohh god u have serious identity crises..it’s all about personal choiceRecommend

  • Bleedbluex

    Are you serious ? Do you think Roger really cares about losing out a few fans from Pakistan ?. Money is to be made in India. Not in Pakistan. Why not concentrate on more concrete Pakistani problems that you face everyday with 1000s of people being killed a week ?Recommend

  • Sam

    How childish ?Recommend

  • Ravi Ghunawat

    Does”t matter if you loose thousands fans from Pakistan meanwhile you gain million fans from India !!! :DRecommend

  • Hypersense

    I’m sure if he supported Pakistan, some one in India would have written the same article. Point being that irrespective of borders, people are hypersensitive when it comes to sport. No fault of the entire nation of Pakistan, India or Federer.Recommend

  • Reddy

    oh!,let’s see, did i get this right..this guy learnt a lot from federer,just sitting across from a television in his living room,lRecommend

  • Jor El

    but y ???Recommend

  • Jor El

    “I’d like to ask you what your reaction would have been if he had held a Pakistani jersey and openly supported Pakistan instead.”
    Rafael Nadal is a Real Madrid fan n hes got a massive fan base in India even amongst Barca supporters. If u try going down the line that Real-Barca rivalry isnt the same as India-Pak cricket rivalry, u r right. Its not the same, its even more intense.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Hmm, I think you fundamentally misunderstood that Michelle Obama blog, but that’s irrelevant here. Thank you for reading my work.Recommend

  • Anirudh Singh Chauhan

    First & foremost, it’s his personal choice. There is a thing in this world known as Freedom of Expression, which most would not understand.

    Secondly, you would never understand the commercial terms of a sponsorship deal. It’s a NIKE initiative, not a RF one. And yeah it’s not like sponsoring any militant group, you see. It’s different.

    Lastly, why so jealous of India? Recommend

  • Nandeesh Swami

    Well written .. but pretty sulky ah?Recommend

  • rahul

    Frankly I found it lame..it’s rafa’s choice to choose his sides and it’s his wish to make it public or notRecommend

  • Shagun

    You my friend are far away form being called a true fan of Federer.Recommend

  • roop

    Sorry Mate … Seems that the hurt is deep … but clearly Nike sees India as a bigger market than Pakistan ever was !!! What to do now ! :PRecommend

  • Soumojit

    You claim to respect Roger but you’re judging him right now and making a fuss over a small choice of his.Recommend

  • superman

    Look I am an Indian and I don’t think I will be having any problem if federer or nadal or Beckham supports Pakistan. I wouldn’t stop seeing them play or write a sulking blog. If nadal and federer are playing, do you mean to say supporters of either players boycott other players endorsed products? Get a life.Recommend

  • Farah Nezam

    What a baby! Lol.Recommend

  • Rachel

    Well, not too many ‘passionate’ Indian cricket fans are going to say that.I personally wouldn’t care myself, but I stopped caring about cricket in any form a long time ago and it doesn’t make any difference to me what cricket team Federer or anyone else supports.

    The article is the immediate emotional outburst from the writer, who passionately cares about his nation’s cricket team and Federer , and while I may not react the same way , I get where he comes from. You may not write a sulking blog but that doesn’t give you the right to pass judgement on the author who may be more emotionally invested in this whole fandom. The word ‘fan’ comes from ‘fanatic’ , afterall.Recommend

  • Rachel

    Comparing apples to oranges. Nadal’s Indian fans reacting to Nadal’s personal preference in supporting a Spanish football league is not the same as Federer’s Pakistani fans reacting to Federer rooting for their rival country (in an unfortunate marketing blitz). I can assure you that the uproar among the generic Indian cricket fan base would have been of epic proportions if the situation was reversed. Remember the recent social media outpouring against Sharapova when she said she didn’t know who Tendulkar was ? Very mature from the Indian cricket fans , wasn’t it ?

    And btw, Nadal doesn’t have too many fans in India :) It is a well known fact that Federer has a bigger fan base among the tennis viewing population in India.Recommend

  • Rachel

    I sure hope those of you criticizing what may have been an emotional outburst from the author calling him a baby and asking him to get a life did the same thing when a whole bunch of people went all out attacking Sharapova on social media for the grave transgression she committed when she said she didn’t know who Tendulkar was. If not, congrats on your double standards.Recommend

  • Jor El

    Lets not go down the road of whose got a bigger fan base in india – nadal or federer, without statistical analysis … regarding the scene about maria sharapova’s comment on not knowing who Tendulkar was, hes on a different level as far as indian cricket is concerned(its a double standard, but a fact) … if u remember, indian fans vandalized homes of players, shouted slogans against them, even asked them to be imprisoned whenever they have played badly … but tendulkar has escaped this “gud fortune” …
    Regarding ur comment “I can assure you that the uproar among the generic Indian cricket fan base would have been of epic proportions if the situation was reversed.” – assurances dont work in the real world, there is only one way to test it out … until then, speculation doesn’t help …Recommend

  • RGM

    Come on man, why does something which has nothing to do with Pakistan become about Pakistan! He can support whoever he wants. Deep seated insecurities. Just give this some deep though, what you’re saying is ridiculous.Recommend

  • Henna Khan

    He does care for the Cricket as he tweeted to Aisam up Haque about Lala’s “blazing sixes”, that was the term he used…Recommend

  • Gul e Rana

    Hey I totally understand if anyone’s upset at RF supporting India. That’s natural if you are die hard fan of RF, and come on be truthful to ourselves it did hurt our eyes to see him with that jersey. But then you accept it and get over it, that’s about it. You don’t abuse RF or unfan him because you weren’t a fan out of compassion but because he’s that great. Being his fan has been very rewarding for me, I’ll always be his fan. And BTW who the heck would hate that moment of RF losing that match point to Safin? I’m a huge fan of RF but that was totally Safin’s glory…
    #CorneredTigersRecommend

  • mili

    Y cannot the differences between the 2 countries can be vanished up. I mean just because Mr. Federer chose to wear a blue jersey doesn’t mean that ppl shud start criticizing him or unfollow him. True fans would respect him n his decisions I am sure.
    Recommend

  • Swapnil Satam

    “Bleed blue till i die”Recommend

  • Swapnil Satam

    nvr use etc ,,It means end of thinking capacity..:-)Recommend

  • Kumar

    There was nothing of core value with a profound message
    to be misunderstood. It was news of the hour which
    was lasciviously turned into a blog by you.Recommend

  • john

    get your country in check first, then ill give you the liberty to speak like thisRecommend

  • Jahil hamid

    LOL Moaning and crying ‘ Recommend

  • MJ

    Freedom of expression. Nobody forced you to read the comment.

    Freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom from counter expression. Crap must be called crap even though ppl are legally allowed to talk crap.Recommend

  • Vish

    If it makes you feel any better, Indians did not behave any better when Maria Sharpova said she had not heard of Sachin Tendulakar. The majority of the world does not follow this game so no surprise she had not heard of him, but funnily Indians were offended. Recommend

  • Vish

    Jor El doesn’t get it. Nadal (a Spaniard which Jor El may not know) supporting a Spanish club is not the same as Federer supporting India. The truth is that Indian fans behaved even more childishly (then this author) when Sharapova claimed she did not know Tendulkar. At least this guy has only vented his feelings in a blog and not harassed Federer on social media, unlike boorish Indian fantards who harangued Sharapova on social media.Recommend

  • Vish

    Better to write a sulking blog than to harass Federer on social media as thousands of boorish Indian fantards did when Sharapova claimed she did not know who Tendulkar was. Quite sure that Indian fantards would have hounded Federer on social media if he had shown support for Pakistan, and this is no speculation.Recommend

  • -Shreya

    Amazingly put!Recommend

  • Amit Lunia

    much ado about nothing….!

    childish gibberishRecommend

  • Amit Lunia

    @syed

    No brotherbazi.. between India and Pakistan

    They are high end Arabs, you and me are lowly south asiansRecommend

  • Sabyasachi

    I am surprised as to how did this international paper permit this guy to pen such an article.It is immature.Recommend

  • Jor El

    “Jor El doesn’t get it. Nadal (a Spaniard which Jor El may not know)”
    Please dont tell me what I get n what I dont. N reading about my comments about indian fans, do u think i have defended them …Recommend

  • zafar

    For those perplexed by the idea that the author is challenging Federer’s support for India, read again! Most of us won’t have issues with Federer supporting India, but definitely doing it publicly as a publicity stunt, which essentially means bigger population equals support for publicity. Is that justified?Recommend

  • anonymous

    you boycott Pepsi as its runned by an Indian Lady :PRecommend

  • Unknown

    Noman Ansari and Faraz Talat like people now should as Federer has apologized for supporting India. Hahahahaha
    Noman Ansari and Faraz Talat shame on you, you always support anti-Pakistan.Recommend

  • superman

    where have i passed a judgement? there’s a blog and there’s my reaction. please clarify the sentence or phrase that seems to be judgmental. if you think its my last sentence;, being judgmental, then i, just like federer would like to apologize.i never told the author to stop writing a “sulking” blog. I wouldn’t have done the same.Recommend

  • Y Malik

    the fact that we publish caustic comments as these in Pakistan should say a lot about us. Anytime I have tried posting in Indian papers, they get deleted. go figure.Recommend

  • Critical

    Sorry mate,but looking at today’s papers…looks like this lone crusader’s blog has made Roger Federer apologize publicly….

    Even though ur comments got more attention than the blog,Suleiman Ijaz won in the endRecommend

  • Shrikanth

    Brilliant article. I am Indian but I understand the pain and logic in each word. Awesome.Recommend

  • raja

    hahaha….love your post my little childish bro…chill out and get back as his fan…#bleedblue :)Recommend

  • runcotvs

    Where is my comment? Why would Tribune remove such an innocuous, friendly, and empathizing comment? Unless something else is going on behind the scenes – like…..hmmmmm…come on, you’re not THAT smart.Recommend

  • Shiv Parashar

    Three cheers for Swapnil Satam for the wise words. Recommend

  • John Galt

    This kind of hypersensitivity and hysteria is the root cause of all Pakistani problems.Recommend

  • Rohit Jain

    Dude..who are you to judge a player like Roger. In fact anyone can support any team, and that is none of your business.. Sure u don’t want to follow him anymore, no issues.. It won’t make much difference to him.. For he has millions of fans who just love the way he plays without hating him for personal decisions he makes… Recommend

  • Jor El

    “runned” eh … beautiful man, just simply beautiful …Recommend

  • Rachel

    And just who are you to judge the author for sharing his *personal* views ? It did seem to make a difference to Federer. Read Federer’s latest comments on the issue:

    Federer, a 17-times Grand Slam winner, explained: “It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest. I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me. I support South Africa, and everybody knows that. The idea wasn’t to spark any fire and I’m sorry if it did that.”Recommend

  • Kirubashankar Gangeyamoorthy

    Hahaha, horrible really… This is how you react being a die-hard fan? I mean come on, am sure it irked a lot coz we won. But whatever it is, he is a tennis legend and he can pick any side he wants. In fact if he did pick Pakistan instead India, we would have not shown such a disgrace being a roger’s fan. Come on guys get a life.Recommend

  • Manesh Daniel

    Mr.Sulaiman,

    At this time When the people of India and Pakistan are trying to get over what’s between them, such a move from your side can be deemed pathetitc.

    I’m an Indian from Dubai and I am happy to say I’ve got a lot of Pakistani Friends here. We people do share a lot in common. Such an article from your side stirs or adds to the unrest between both our countries. I don’t find anything wrong in what Federer did, please tell me how does supporting India supposed to hurt the People of Pakistan ?

    Obviously it will if you are still in the midset of enemity between India And Pakistan

    I’m also pretty sure if Roger had done this with some other country. This article wouldn’t have existed nor such complaints from Pakistan.

    I recently came across a person Who is from Pakistan and flew all the way to Australia to support MS.Dhoni, now don’t tell me you’ll hate him too.

    I do respect your views and you have all the right to air it. My suggestion is your view shouldn’t be something that instills to today’s generation the enemity among our country.

    Hopefully you’ll take my opinion in a good sense and let’s work together for a better relationship among our country.

    Regards,
    Manesh.
    Peace. :)

    Recommend

  • Mohd. Raja

    1.Please dont be educated racist.
    2.Dude when u donate something dont expect in return,this is not at all called donation.
    3.Everyone is free to make his/her choices.Its those fans like you who spread hatred.Why so much hate for India when you know the land of pak was carved out from india.Dont be a propaganda of your ruling party/general.
    Bro,I am an Indian,I have a heart and the same red blood running in my veins as urs,I am born and will die empty handed just like you then why so much hatred for us.
    4.Please have an open view.

    .Recommend

  • Muhammad Zeeshan

    Though we dont believe this. but i really appreciate your complimentRecommend

  • Muhammad Zeeshan

    bro! every one has a right to support anyone he wants but the point is he supported them for the sponsor and as a result the feeling of his Pakistani fans were hurt!Recommend

  • Mo

    Just curious, is Tennis big in Pakistan, have they produced a top 100 or top 50 tennis player. Not trying to stir anything up, just curiousRecommend

  • mrankitanks .

    Nobody forced you to grumble. You still did it.Recommend

  • mrankitanks .

    He didnt win. Federer would rather stay away from a controversy. So he just said whatever, sorry, keep me out of this nonsense.Recommend

  • yassine Federer