“I want to be a hero, even though I know heroes have short lives”
Boris Becker is likely to be deported after his release from custody, Interior Ministry sources have confirmed. The former world number one tennis player is being automatically deported for being a non-British foreigner who has been sentenced to more than 12 months in prison.
Becker, 54, was jailed for two and a half years last week for concealing £2.5million in assets to avoid paying monies he owed following his bankruptcy. He will serve half the full sentence… His girlfriend, Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro, visited Becker for the first time at HMP Wandsworth yesterday. The Prison, a Victorian-era prison, is two miles from Center Court at Wimbledon, a title he won in 1985 aged 17.
The Times, May 5
Tom Callahan, one of America’s greatest sportswriters, tells a story in his book gods at play on a working holiday in London in the summer of 1985. He was reporting for Wimbledon time and had breakfast every morning in a small cafe in Kensington with his wife, Angie, and their children, Becky and Tom.
The first morning they noticed a teenager waiting for a table and invited him to join them. “Boris’s English was still a work in progress,” says Callahan, “but he and my son were about the same age and communicated well.
“Becker came to our place for breakfast every day this week. Little did I know that he would win the tournament, so I didn’t ask him a single question about tennis. What a reporter. By the second week, when the playful pup with huge paws scurried through the draw, he was upgraded to a contender’s hotel and my opportunity to ask him questions was gone.”
Two years later, Becker was a global superstar when Callahan caught up with him in Rome. Six books about the child prodigy had been published; he interviewed 250 people a year, and like everyone else, Callahan had been offered the bare minimum until Becker, remembering his kindness in London, invited him to his hotel suite.
“It’s silly to say that about a tennis player,” he told Callahan, “but I’m an incredible hero in Germany. And Germany needs heroes more than any other place. Some things don’t interest me. The eyes of some fans at Davis Cup games scare me. There is no light in them. Fixed Emotions. blind worship. horror. It makes me think of what happened to us a long time ago. And yet I want to be a hero, a small and good hero, even though I know heroes have very short lives.”
The dangers were obvious.
In the lobby, Becker introduced Callahan to his manager, Ion Tiriac, a former tennis pro from Romania. “Isn’t he something?” said Becker. “He’s teaching me how to live. Whatever other young men might ask their parents, I ask him. He taught me everything, how to dress, how to deal with women.”
Callahan was dubious. He could think of a few lessons a manager could teach, but not how to treat women. Then a door opened and Benedicte Courtin, Becker’s 24-year-old friend from Monaco, slipped unobtrusively into the room, but Boris didn’t put up with it and introduced her with a theatrical gesture: “Boris Becker can’t love a woman?”
But the jury didn’t agree on that either.
Becker was 37 years old and had been retired for six years when we met in April 2005. It was a Friday afternoon at the Mandarin Hotel in Munich, and I had marched to reception ten minutes before closing, expecting an army of assistants and attendants, but since he was Germany’s most famous sportsman, he was sitting in the lobby with only his cell phone for company.
Wearing a brown leather jacket and jeans and a face that looked like it had been scrubbed with a Brillo pad – the result of a night on the tiles – he watched as I fumbled for a recorder and spilled a copy of his autobiography. a ton of notes and a pack of batteries and pens on the table.
I wasn’t a Callahan. It made him laugh: “Why don’t we have a drink first and talk about how we’re going to do that?”
We started with The player, his recently published book, and the fact that it contained no photos. “I don’t know how many millions of photos have been taken of me over the years and I didn’t want to include any in the book,” he explained. “An autobiography is not about pictures; it’s about the stories behind the pictures; It’s about honesty and as much truth as possible without getting too close to other people’s privacy.”
Then we put his honesty and truth to the test.
Six years earlier, on 25 June 1999, he had left Wimbledon on his last day as a player and spent the afternoon arguing with Barbara, his heavily pregnant wife. She was expecting her second boy and reported to the hospital in labor that night as Boris drowned his sorrows in an elegant London restaurant.
It was getting late. The kitchen was closed. He ordered a lemon sorbet in a vodka drink and caught the attention of a Russian model, Angela Ermakova, who was sitting nearby. A moment later they were talking as friends. A moment later, in a quiet corner of the restaurant, they were lashing out at each other’s clothes like two maniacs.
The next morning, Barbara was discharged from the hospital; Their labor was a false alarm and they packed their bags and returned to Germany. Boris struggled in the months that followed.
“People should be 60 when they make a decision like that [retirement],” he said. “I was 31! It was new territory for me and I felt quite vulnerable. ‘How will I react? Will I go to pieces? Will I ever find something that satisfies me again?’ I needed support and I went out and did stupid things.”
One morning his secretary in Munich handed him a fax. It was a letter from a Russian model that reminded him of something stupid: “Dear Mr. Becker, we met a while ago at Nobu in London. The result of our meeting is now in the eighth month.”
He responded by calling his attorneys. She responded by calling the press. The fallout made headlines around the world and Becker’s life went into a tailspin that would last nearly a year. “I handled it badly,” he said. “I should have met her quietly, arranged a DNA test and accepted my responsibilities.”
I asked how hard was it? “Inconceivable,” he said. “People have been waiting for this for a long time. I’ve beaten a lot of players in my time and being beaten in tennis is not the same as being beaten in football. Tennis is a one-on-one – you beat the other physically, mentally and emotionally.
“And when you’ve done that for 15 years, it creates a lot of resentment. I knew what they were thinking: ‘One day Becker, you son of a bitch, we’ll get your ass.’ And that was the moment. You have my ass.”
That was it, the sense of shame that brought me to Munich. How do you come back from something like that? Where do you start when people are looking at you on the street and they’re not thinking ‘Boom-Boom’, the Wimbledon champion, but ‘Wham-Bam’, the broom closet man?
How do you build a relationship when you’ve barely spoken a word but suddenly share a child? How do you love a daughter you’ve disowned for a year and haven’t seen for almost two years? When will she be your daughter?
How will she become your daughter? What do you say when she comes home crying because of what they said at school? “Is it true, dad? A broom closet? Was it like that?’
Becker didn’t flinch. “It wasn’t as reported. It wasn’t in a broom closet, it was…well, let’s just say it was in a better place, but I don’t think that matters. My boys never asked me, ‘How did you and mom make me?’ The most important thing for me is that she’s five years old now and I’m really starting to love her and I’m sure that soon we’ll have as good a relationship as I had with my boys.
“I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. It was my toughest lesson ever and I wasn’t sure I would get through it, but five years later all I can say is that it’s awesome. I didn’t kill anyone; I have not raped children; I had sex with a woman who wasn’t my wife and it was wrong but I paid for it. I accepted my responsibility and turned the most embarrassing moment of my life into a beautiful thing.
“I see it in my kids’ reaction; I see it in Barbara’s reaction; I can see it in the reaction of Angela, my sister and my friends – they have a lot more respect for me now than when I was a Wimbledon champion. I think even the man in the street can identify with me better… I’m not a god, I’m one of them, I’ve made mistakes.”
Much has been written about his latest mistake. Here is Catherine Conlon from Cork in a letter on Wednesday The Irish Time: “Boris Becker was imprisoned in England. What a waste of an extraordinary talent. Would society (and Boris Becker) be better served with two years of community service – teaching and inspiring children in low-income communities the basics of his genius as a tennis player? Is this a missed opportunity?”
Andy Murray is here The times: “He broke the law, and if you do that, I don’t think you should get special treatment for who you are or what you’ve achieved. I’m sorry he’s in this situation, but I’m also sorry for the people (Becker’s creditors) he affected with his decisions and what happened to them.”
To me? I’m dating Murray, but I’m also dating Becker’s (now) 22-year-old daughter, Anna. “I will support him and visit him whenever I can,” she said last week. “I hope that helps him get through this a bit.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/tennis/i-want-to-be-a-hero-though-i-know-heroes-have-short-lives-41626610.html “I want to be a hero, even though I know heroes have short lives”