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Meeting one's idol after 20 years of passion. We would have loved to measure Mauro Cappiello's heart beats when, some ten days ago, he was about to shake hands with Stefan Edberg. The event happened at the tournament of Halle, where the former Swedish champion played a show-match with Michael Stich, Martina Navratilova and Anastasia Myskina. Cappiello left Italy for a trip to Westphalia, where he was given a red carpet treatment. Even without press credential, the tournament staff allowed him to attend the press conference and to meet Edberg. There was a brief chat and the delivery of a plaque with the screenshot of the site http://stefanstennis.free.fr. Historical site, that Cappiello created and runs tirelessly. It's a community of fans of the great Swedish champion, whose retirement is outdated (he quit playing in 1996), but did not extinguish the passion of those who continue to follow him day after day, event after event. "Stefan did not know the site, he appreciated and laughed when he saw me. I wore the Adidas outfit he had when he won the Australian Open in 1987", says Cappiello, 32 years old, 20 of which spent to root for the Swede. A bombproof passion, because he could follow in person only the last years of Edberg's career, for obvious... anagraphical reasons. «Oh yes, I was too young». His passion for the Blond Angel started between 1990 and 1991 and accompanied him up to now.
The interview to Mauro Cappiello, founder and admin of STE...fans, about his meeting with Stefan Edberg and the history of the site, was top news on the home page of Tennis Best, one of the most influential tennis media in Italy
The key day is July 21st, 2001. With a computer and an internet connection, Cappiello decided to create a fan site dedicated to his idol. At the time, the web was full of fan pages devoted to tennis. «Today they have almost disappeared, have been replaced by blogs and social networks». Owner of a remarkable archive, Cappiello gave life to a site that still lives today. More: it has grown year after year, thanks to the collaboration of many fans around the globe, bound by the passion for Edberg. «A French girl helps me in the daily management of the site and the Facebook page, then we have people helping us in translations from Swedish... and we even happened to receive translations from Turkish". A community that has been able to expand and reach interesting figures: the Facebook page has over 14,000 fans, the mailing list is made up of 500 members, while the Youtube channel (the only one entirely dedicated to Edberg) has about 300. «I think they are important numbers because we are dealing with an athlete who has retired over 15 years ago, and has got a discreet personality». Indeed it is true: the players are idolized until they are in business, then the star system tends to forget about them only to "bring them to light" when a record is broken. «In Edberg's case, the fact is even more true, because he has always kept a low profile, his statements have never been "sensational". But I don't think it's because he is an uninteresting person. The problem is they've always asked him the same questions for 15 years!»
"STE...fans" is rich of information and - above all - pearls. There is a biographical section, where you can find all the matches and all records, including the head-to-heads. «Maybe that is the least interesting part, because there are things you can also find elsewhere - continues Cappiello -. I think the best part is the "Stefan Today" section in which we follow what Edberg is doing day by day. Performances, activities... currently he is co-owner of an investment company». Following this section, there is also a photo gallery in which all (or most) of Edberg's public appearances since 2003 are gathered. For those who love the memories, in the "Download" section you can download several clippings from newspapers and magazines. An accurate, absolutely unmissable reconstruction of Edberg's life and career. «A big success with readers had the recent inclusion of an article from 1982, about Stefan's win at the Avvenire tournament». Very active is also the Youtube channel, where there are several exclusive clips and even some full matches, including some performances in the Senior Tour. You can smell the scent of passion in the "Edberg Experiences" section, in which any fan can tell about their experiences in first person. And if you're feeling particularly well up in the Edberg subject, there is the "Quiz" with 20 questions on the Swede's life and career. And the ranking is periodically updated.
Most visits come from Italy. «Maybe the fact that the site was born here has had an influence, but actually Stefan has a big following in our area. In 1996 he came to the Foro Italico and was given a tribute from the crowd that he has never forgotten. Indeed, he expressed regret for not having played too many times the "Internazionali"». But the community has an absolutely international dimension, starting from the language of the site, entirely in English. «Future projects? Certainly we would like to interact with him, but it will be very difficult because he is very jealous of his privacy. We try to be delicate, to follow him with passion but without exceeding the limit. We would like to travel around for the tournaments as much as possible, make acquaintances... The dream would be to make an interview with him. We have a decent background and I think that would be very nice. For example, few know that he's currently busy in interesting activities, such as participating in the construction of a tennis arena made only in wood. It will be the only tennis structure in the world to possess an internationally recognized energy certificate. Edberg was very good at inventing for himself a successful career after tennis, and I think he would have many things to say».
Meanwhile, the site is going to turn 11 years old and is one of the oldest in the tennis scene. «We want to grow, offer more exclusive content», Cappiello concludes with sincere pride. He has all the reasons. Dedicating two hours a day to a project, only inspired by passion, is a meritorious act. In the hope that the meeting with Edberg was the first of many. We are confident that Stefan has understood.
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