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Mery Perelló Interview with La Vanguardia


Mery Perelló: “The Rafa Nadal Foundation has given me incredible stories of inspiration and betterment”
Her name is Mery, not Xisca, Perelló, for half a year she has been the wife of one of the greatest tennis players in history ( Rafa Nadal, for her Rafael ) and these days she, like everyone else, is locked up in their home in Manacor where her husband has become unexpectedly active on social media... We have seen him cooking, playing mini tennis in the backyard (not with Mery, but with his sister) and training on the treadmill and in the hallways...
But the most surprising thing came on Monday, when in a blooper with Federer and Murray that he shared live on Instagram, he surprised everyone by talking about his plans as a future dad... It happened when Murray told him to take advantage of the peace in a house without children and the Mallorcan tennis player told him that he hoped to be in the "same situation [as Andy] very soon."
Mery Perelló, priva as always, did not take part in all this. She, a Business Administration and Management graduate who is already planning to blow out the candles for her 32nd confined birthday, is focused on her work. It is never ceases. Quite the opposite. This obligatory break has meant an non foreseeable increase in her work as the director of the Rafa Nadal Foundation. More so now as the Foundation is preparing the celebration of its tenth anniversary that, in principle, should also be celebrated in Anantapur, the Indian region where they built their first school.
A couple of weeks after the day she was supposed to meet us at the Palma headquarters, Mery Perelló joins our interview by phone. Her voice sounds calm and happy. Background music? Nothing... When she gest back to telecommuting she might put on something soft, but not necessarily.
Do you have time to get bored?
No! The days are very short. It is all very strange. (Tele) I work non-stop and the work is a lot, but time flies by... I keep getting up early to be present because this year is very important for the Foundation and for all the people it serves. Not only because of the anniversary, but because we must continue attending to the needs of our beneficiaries and their families and now more than ever.... If before they were families who were experiencing difficult economic circumstances, family and social situations, now the crisis has further aggravated their day to day lives.
What can be done from home?
Many of the scheduled meetings (Madrid, Barcelona ...) are going to be held or have already been held by video conference, but we have also made efforts to carry out specific initiatives. For example, at the Rafa Nadal Foundation Center in Palma we have started supporting families by granting them help so that they can cover their basic needs for food and hygiene. In addition, the professionals of the Center are continuously creating teaching materials and "sports" sessions to send families via WhatsApp, since they do not have computers or an internet connection. We are also helping and guiding parents to take steps to apply for public aid and subsidies. In our center in Valencia we have delivered some packs of school supplies that are deemed a necessity.
The first year of marriage, the tenth year of the Foundation ... and everyone at home. Did you imagine going through a situation like this? What lessons will we learn from all this?
It was unimaginable, it is such an exceptional situation that it does not seem real. As for the lessons, I prefer to focus on the positive ones and I think that a true act of generosity always provokes another. I think that is how we are living it as a society, and it is the way to get ahead.
How do you think the world will change? Will people be more supportive? Will there be more grants and foundations like yours? Or do you think it will be the opposite, that people will look more to themselves?
After what we are experiencing on a social level, I believe that humanity will be more present than ever in personal relationships. I don't know how to tell you how I think the world will change, but it surely will, and a lot. The inequalities will be stronger than ever, but I also think that people will be more supportive, because this virus shows us that it affects everyone equally.
The foundation was also established during a difficult time. After the 2008 crisis... Do you remember how the idea came about?
Perfectly, even though that was 12 years ago and at that time I was still studying at the university. I do remember that at a social level these were difficult times for many and that Rafael was explaining to me how the initiative was progressing, but I didn't really experience it first hand. The Foundation was born from the desire to help vulnerable people, since Rafael was already an important tennis player and collaborated with different charitable causes, participated in various events and initiatives... And at a certain moment, he and his family, especially his mother, thought of creating their own foundation and thus help the most vulnerable groups: boys and girls. Two years later, in 2010, it became a reality with the launch of the first two projects.
Ten years is a long time... there must already be 'adult children' who have passed through the foundation. Do you have a specific story?
Yes, it’s many years... with many stories behind them. The truth is that the Foundation has given me very inspiring and rewarding moments. Magical. For example, there is the story of Pallavi, a girl from India whom I have seen grow with each of my visits to the project that we have had in that country since 2010: the Nadal Educational Tennis School. She started as a student and is now 19 years old and has been part of the coaching team for two years while she is studying at the university.
It is an unusual achievement for an Indian woman ...
And even more so in her case. As you know, gender and caste inequality are very present there. And in Pallavi's history, everything aligned. Her beautiful history shows us that with opportunity and with effort and daily work, goals can be achieved. She was a girl from a very disadvantaged environment who has grown up with tennis on a daily basis, has learned English in our center, has strived every day to be better and now studies at a university. In addition, she is training as a tennis coach and has the possibility of working in the center where she has grown up.
How is confinement affecting life in India? What do you hear about it?
In India, confinement was ordered when there were few infected, which is very positive because a country with 1.3 billion people and a high poverty rate could end up in a dramatic situation. Specifically in Anantapur, which is where our school is, they do not have adequate infrastructure, and most of the homes are small spaces with many people and without the most basic equipment, so imagine... Our contacts told me that the Government is delivering food to several towns in the area, which gives some peace of mind.
Do you think that you will be able to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the foundation with them?
In theory I am scheduled to go in October... If that happens remains to be seen. But everything is so strange and so uncertain that I dare not make any predictions. I would love it because it would mean that things are better, but we will see.
To put yourself at the forefront of a foundation like the one you run, you must have training. Did you get it? Did you have experience?
I had no experience but I have been acquiring it. I studied Business Administration and Management and took several courses afterwards, although not focused on the social sector. Once I started working at the Foundation I did a Masters specializing in the direction and management of foundations. I think that foundations are becoming more professionalized and the management is more like that of a company, which helps my career in this regard. But without a doubt, what helps undertaking this beautiful challenge is personal motivation and seeing the needs in our society.
You also follow the [ATP] tour, which moves at a fast pace. How is your work organized under normal circumstances?
We have a good rhythm of work at the Foundation because we are a relatively small team and there are many things to do, although I am lucky that there is no lack of enthusiasm and professionalism in any of the people who work here. We can keep our attention on the projects and also make sure that the areas that make the correct operation of the foundation possible are fulfilled.
What would your next trip have been if not for the confinement?
I had meetings in Madrid and Barcelona scheduled, and for tennis, we would have returned from Monte Carlo by now... and would already be in Barcelona, for Godó... But who knows. All this situation means is that we really don’t know what would have happened and we are trying to be positive and deal with the situation. That is why I am focused on telecommuting, trying to help those who need it the most.
And what do you miss about the ATP tour?
Well, I don't know... I prefer to focus on what's going on, to push forward in this strange situation.
Will it affect the tour? Toni Nadal said that it’s the least of the problems, that the important thing is that this situation gets resolved quickly.
Tennis is a sport where tournaments are played in different countries every week, therefore, right now it must be difficult to make decisions. But basically, overcoming the health crisis is the highest priority and the rest of the issues should be addressed when the time is right.
I imagine that Rafa Nadal now has more time to help with the tasks of the Foundation, or is he always fully involved?
As I said before, we are a great little team and we all contribute our part. Although I carry it day by day, I rely on Ana María, Rafael's mother and President of the Foundation, who is very involved in all projects and initiatives, and we talk or see each other almost daily (even before confinement). Rafael is also very involved in current projects and new ideas, as well as decision making, although his professional commitments obviously do not allow him to get involved as much as he would like.
In fact, he has returned to social media after a long time...
Obviously he now has more time for everything and, in fact, has launched the initiative “Our Best Victory” for the benefit of the Red Cross Respond campaign. In addition the Foundation helps families directly so that they have their basic needs covered during this hiatus we are experiencing. The truth is that he is collaborating and he is supporting what he can and from home.
On the other hand, it has opened a door to your privacy. Some magazines even made a 'virtual' report with the images captured on Instagram.
For real? I haven't seen it. But I do know that Rafael is now very active on the internet because it is a difficult time and he wants to help in whatever way he can.
We have seen him playing tennis with two sofas as a net! Against his sister. You don’t go to the Academy even though you live so close to it?
No, no. We are confined like everyone else. We were very clear about that from the first day and we train at home as we can.
What else do you do to stay fit?
We do everything we can. Rubber bands, push-ups, circuit... at least one hour a day in my case.
We know very little about you ... are you also into sports?
I exercise a lot but always just for myself. Never seriously. I have played volleyball, I have done gymnastics, fitness and lately running. On vacation I sometimes play paddle tennis with Rafael...
On your Instagram account there is no image these days... are you not as active.
No, no... I don't have any public account.
There is one with your name.
Probably. I have not looked at it. But it is not mine. That's for sure.
He has always highly preserved his privacy and that of his family. In fact, in those images that Rafael shares, he is seen running on a treadmill, in the kitchen frying an egg or in the hallway working with rubber bands. You are never seen...
I am not in them because those images are snapshots of a moment. They are not planned... in the case of tennis it was a spur of the moment idea and they put it up because it was fun. But that's it... Besides, I've always been very clear that I'm not the famous one. If I am it will backfire. The one who has done something to deserve it is Rafa, not me...
On the internet you are still known as Xisca and it says that his birthday is July 7... That you will be 32. What is true in all that?
Well not much... nobody around me calls me Xisca. And my birthday is soon, I will surely spend it in confinement. But it is not in July. There is still a little time left...
(translated by Chris Boardman - I apologize for any mistakes)

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