Monday, 20 December 2010

Rafael Nadal's Mother gives interview

Here is an interview with Ana Maria Parera, Rafa's Mother that appeared this week in the Spainish newspaper Marca.

Q: You have spoken out very few times throughout all these years.

A: I only wanted to work with the Foundation, where we have a fantastic team, but now I need to take responsibility. All my life I've been quite a discreet person, I only limited myself to attending my son's matches and nothing else. I systematically refused many things and I didn’t want to enter any of his worlds. It’s enough that he has to do it! If now I have to be in the spotlight it’s due to the particular circumstances, a project that is well worth it, because putting myself before my son is something I have never done.

Q: For charity or not, to the fans a Nadal-Federer match is the best match possible. And to you?

A: It will be the most special tennis match to me because it's the first public event the Foundation has organized. I would say that the result is less important. At first we didn't intend it to be of such magnitude but the response has been impressive. We have Caja Magica packed.

Q:8, 000 tickets sold within a few hours.

A:We also have a virtual front row for those who want to make a donation, big or small. Via [Foundation website]. Also I’d like to inform you that afterwards the court itself will be sold out. It will be chopped in 35,000 pieces. Each will be signed by Rafa and encased in perspex.

Q:Was it hard to convince Federer?

A: Not at all, not at all! It’s a dual event. First we go to Zurich and then he comes here. Federer has the Foundation for a much longer time that works in Africa and does a great job.

Q:And yours?

A:We formed it three years ago, but we didn’t do anything until we completely clarified everything. We could not afford to start any old how. A Foundation must be very clear ... We work on three fronts. With Special Olympics, where 250 children and youths with intellectual disabilities can practice tennis continuously. We are also preparing them for national and international championships. Furthermore, with this entity we are beginning to work with Children's Villages, we’re building or improving sports facilities for socially excluded children.

Q: And the third objective is the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.

A: We are supporting them because, in my opinion, Vicente Ferrer was a trail blazer as a person and as an educator. If you could see how those children live! India functions through castes (social classes) that do not interrelate, and as Ana told me, the wife of Vicente Ferrer, sport is the only thing that can bring them together.
We have built a school in Anantapur which has 200 students at the moment and three clay tennis courts. We do not aspire to make tennis players out of them, that's unthinkable. However, the school provides a complete education. We also provide them with all the sport equipment. You should see them in big shoes , excited while playing ... I was there for four days and I was crying, but I swear to you that I will soon return to Anantapur. I want to stay there for at least 15 days.

Q: You were there with Rafa; how did he experience that different reality?

A: He wondered about that while leaving one of the villages and he told me: "It’s impossible that the children who have so little are so happy while we and all the people around us have problems." People like my son, who worked hard and have become privileged, they should at least give a grain of sand! Everyone should do that.

Q: The life of privilege has other risks. You have been a watchful mother?

A: It is very difficult to fight against this world, but I believe that we have succeeded because at home he always saw absolute normality in all aspects. I have never required anything of my son, never! I'll give you examples.

When he had to play the juniors at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, he simply didn’t do it. And he didn’t because I told him: "Listen,your studies come first." He replied: "Mum, but this is very important!" I explained to him that I did not believe he had to leave the final exams to go to these places because you never know whether that will be your future. That’s how it is. I have seen big misfortunes in this world with parents who want their children to achieve what they themselves failed to achieve, and on top of that, they put pressure on them.

Q: That is to say, he never needed to get off a pedestal.

A: Never. You would think I'm telling you this because people will read it, but no. I've never had to tell Rafael: "Son, put your feet on the ground."

Q: In Rafa we admire his tennis and we applaud his character.

A: I was very clear that normality was the key. We have had great luck with Toni, who has instructed him in tennis, and we have talked a lot with him about his upbringing. That’s right, without playing down a single bit of importance of anyone, those who have brought up Rafael were his parents. We have done it in a very natural way. There’s no need to talk about it, it’s enough to observe.

Q: There isn't a mother who doesn’t like talking about her son. You can’t deny that you are envied by everyone.

A: I don't like it. Many times I'm told: "How lucky you are, you should be so proud ..." I tell them I'm lucky to have two children who are good people, who have not gotten into trouble and moreover, Rafel has done very well in what he does. Look, in my house we don’t speak a lot about tennis because I believe that my son needs to be calm when he comes home. We talk about other things.

Q: So, at home he's not number one.

A: He’s not number one nor anything like it! When he’s at home I send him to supermarket or to throw out trash. There’s no other way around here! And I can’t make him do more because he is very messy.

Q: In other words if we see his room ...

A: After I went through it or if I didn’t go through it? [laughs]. He is tidy only when it comes to his trophies. He has a room next to his bedroom where he keeps them. What he has in his bedroom [lowers her voice] are many stuffed animals. He likes them very much and, after winning the U.S. Open, a friend gave him an enormous giraffe . When I saw it, I thought: "I'll kill you!“. He keeps it there, with all the trophies.

Q: When did you realize that your son was something special?

A: You wouldn’t believe me, but I never thought my son was very good. I saw that he was ahead of others, winning everything, but I'd be lying if I told you I had considered he would come this far. When he was 12 years old we told him that his studies come first and he is to choose between tennis and soccer, to take up whichever he believed made him happier. Obviously he was better at playing tennis , but neither his father nor I suggested anything.

Q: He chose and the life has changed for everyone. What was it like, this parallel journey? You 
were working...

A: I had perfumeries, but I ’m also a music teacher. I’m a pianist by profession [again lowers her voice], but I'm playing so badly ... I'm better as a teacher. My life had a different rhythm, it was channeled differently. I had my family and my children. I still have them, but the girl is at the university and Rafel comes and goes.

Q: Neither of the two inherited your passion for music?

A: No. They are both thoroughbred athletes. The girl is 19 years old and studies at INEF [Instituto Nacional d’Educacion Fisica = National Institute of Physical Education]. She likes all sports. It was clear since she was little, and she wasn't influenced by her brother, although they adore each other. I don’t recall a single quarrel between them and I know that’s not normal. You know [almost whispers] that they are rabid Real Madrid fans. When Real play, he may be in Australia and she in Barcelona, they are calling each other or chatting to talk about the match. It’s something incredible.

Q: How do you feel listening from the box when your son dedicates his victory to you?

A: Very emotional. I cry, although I control myself. But look, after his injuries, when I'm watching a match, I see from a distance whether or not he has problems, and when he does, I want the match to end. I can ’t watch him suffer, it’s too much for me.

Once I was in the box and I heard "Come on, make one last effort. " I turned and said, "One last effort? Can you not see that he's knackered? Stop that!" When he wins a big one it’s impressive because at home I see how much he works, how much he struggles. From the outside you only see the spectacle and, make no mistake, this world is very hard, it’s full of obstacles.

Q: You also play tennis. Any match with Rafa?

A: Noo, he would floor me. [laughs]

Q: President of his Foundation. For Rafa it must be curious to see you these days?

A: I think he’s satisfied I'm in charge of all this, although he does tease me: "Mum, to speak in public you have to set some standards, you have to say things clearly, not get confused. " I tell him: "Hey, as if you don’t get confused many times." [smiles]

Q: Let me ask you about that tic which he has each time he prepares to serve and which we all know about...

A: Tell me about it! You don’t know how many pairs of underwear people have given him believing that the ones he has do not fit well. Including a person who sent me a letter saying we should shop for larger sizes and mailing that to me with four pairs enclosed [between laughs]. It's a tic and the more nervous he is... He had it all his life. [lowers her voice] I think that he has a butt a bit bigger than he should. [laughs]

Q: And, as he once said here, fear of darkness.

A: Let me tell you ... Now he’is at home with Lopez [Marc Lopez], working through the pre-season like each year, and they both are afraid. I left them there. He told me: "Don’t worry. This will be a disaster, but don’t worry. " The day before yesterday he called me at midnight: "Mum, we have a problem. There’s a power failure and I'm scared to death. " I had to tell him in which drawer the batteries for flashlights were.

Q: Christmas is coming. Have you already decided what to get him? It can’t be easy.

A: As far as material things go, I can't give him anything. Not because he has expensive whims, he’s not a spendthrift. He only needs video games for his travels. Over the years I tried to give him books, courses of English to improve it and nothing happens, they are left unopened. But yes, I have decided... It’s a surprise! 

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