Every single time, a UCI tour graces the Middle-East, Federico Meda becomes a uber occupied person. Dubai tour’s chief coordinator, Federico is pretty often seen hustling to and from the press box, moving from one building – that has hosted the media, to the other where the riders are staying, managing phone calls one after another (he carries two), and sending timely press releases. With him around, you can be rest assured, that you have nothing to worry about. Starting with arranging interviews to asking for even the slightest bit of help like getting you a universal plug, Meda is your man to go. Blessed with an ample amount of patience, Meda always carries a warm smile.
Almost impossible to believe, but one the Dubai Tour and the subsequent Abu Dhabi Tour concludes, Federico will morph into an entirely different person, almost an alter-ego. The calm , generous and composed Walter White-like persona will turn into a rowdy, rough and tough, adrenaline-gushing, Heisenberg-esque like portrait.
In about a month’s time from today, Federico will head right back to Germany, where his team “The Berlin Grizzlies” will ask him to keep all those characteristics on hold. The only help he’d probably offer there are absolutely nasty tackles, a few elbow blows and perhaps, a broken tooth or two. Outside the cycling world, Federico is basically a rugby player, and is quite an achiever at that.
Keeping the Bruce Banner-like demeanour aside, Federico, with approximately 20 years of Rugby experience, has taken an oath to unleash The Hulk once he takes the field with the remaining of his gang!
Federico with his team Berlin Grizzlies Rugby Club (Credit: Berlin Grizzles FB page)
“This smile is the first thing that vanishes once you’re on the rugby field. It is a physical sport all right but there is a lot more to Rugby than just rough tackles and broken bones. There is a bonding in Rugby like no other. People whom you play this sport with, the team, they become you friends for life, even family. It is that special,” Federico tells TOI Sports.
“Your relationship with the opposition is different too once the game is over. To ensure there are no hard feelings, we players offer each other beer. But the real chord is the one with your teammates. It is such a physical sport; so many cuts, bruises, blood clots and what not? But the same physicality brings a feeling of brotherhood among us, the same that men who go to war with have. It is tough; you feel the pain. But it’s good pain. When you know you’ve given your blood and sweat, it brings all us guys close.
“We do not go without spending at least one hour with the team after the match; even if there is family to attend to. Even as I tell you all this, I am having Goosebumps. With these guys, you create a friendship for life.”
Federico’s first sign of being a Rugby buff was spotted two days before the Dubai Tour got underway. Over dinner, while everyone was busy catching up, Federico was keenly following the England-Italy Rugby game on the television. Italy were trailing by some 15-27, but Federico remained optimistic. Just then, Italy scored a touchdown and an ecstatic Federico went up in joy. But soon that happiness turned into disappointment when replays showed that it was a forward pass and the touchdown did not count. Out came the F word.
That’s it. I think we are done. We’re not coming back from here. We always do this. We always…”
And just like that, even before Federico could complete his sentence, England scored, and he went quiet. After almost after 30 seconds of pause, he said: “Told you, mate. We never beat England. We’ve been waiting for that one win for god knows how long and tonight only prolongs it.”
“More than anything else, I think it was the commentary that got me attracted to Rugby. Later I obviously understood the significance of the World Cup win for South Africa, but honestly, I think it were those two voices. I gave a trial and got selected in ASR Milano. It is a historical club but when I joined it wasn’t that big in stature. I remained with them until I moved to Berlin four years ago. And then I played for the Grizzles. In Italy, I played in third division, the Serie B. In Berlin, it is quite good but not to the level of what I played in Italy. If I had put more effort when I was 20 then who knows I could have not been sitting here having breakfast with you and instead busting some jaws,” Federico says.
That’s not even it. Apart from being a rugby player, Federico is also a brown-belt holder in Judo, which he received before he ventured into rugby. And wait for it, the man is also quite good at ice-skating and baseball, and even teaches archery to kids back home. He even cycles once in a while, even if that means riding from Berlin to Copenhagen across 12 days with his partner and their three-year-old child.
And you say AB de Villiers can do everything? Think again.
“As a kind, I used to go on holidays to Kinderheim. It is in Trentino region, on the Alps. The structure of the mountains in Italy is beautiful and we used to play a lot of sports, barring football. Because football for was not considered good by my parents, because there were tussles and all. I used to go there as a child and when I grew up a bit, I started getting more and more involved there. I would spend a month there every year. Everyday we could get to play whatever we wanted to,” Federico says.
“My father decided not to go attend it because I was born just a day before. It is a big race, first of the season and when I grew up I understood that because of me he had missed the final stage. I wanted to make up for it and showed interest in cycling, not as a rider but in almost the same capacity as my father. Obviously, there were other reasons as well. When you have a sports journalist in your family, let alone that person is you father, you can’t escape it. Not that I wanted to escape in the first place,” Federico says.
Marcel and I live both live in Germany so we speak about different stuff keep in touch. But I definitely have a stronger relationship with Mark [Cavendish] because he is always here at the Emirates, and sometimes we have dinner and breakfast and end up spending a lot of time. We speak about family and we share an equation that goes beyond cycling. Knowing him in person has been a pleasure. People might call him cocky and all those things but in real he is completely opposite of what people perceive of him, “he says.
Continuing with the tradition, Federico thinks he will be an even happier man if his son takes up Rugby. Three and a half year old Bruno, who comes to the stadium to watch his father being his fierce self, has every making of a rugby star, if Federico is to be believed and he doesn’t want to let that fire extinguish. “He is crazy about rugby. He roars, screams and gives us a tough time. So yea, he’s got all the elements.”
Just as he finishes his line, Federico’s phone rings. “Yes, sure. I’ll be right there. The shuttles are ready to move,” he says, and disconnects with a sigh before getting ready to leave the breakfast table and readying his bag. “But, all of that can wait. Let me get you guys to the starting point first…” and he gets going.
It’s only a matter of time, Federico. There are bones waiting to cracked in Germany.