Their paths having crossed on several occasions over the last few years, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and legendary Swiss cycling champion Ferdinand Kubler met in Zurich on Wednesday and expressed their admiration for each other.
Blatter spoke in glowing terms of his friend when the 91-year-old Kubler collected a lifetime award in his native Switzerland last year. “He is an extraordinary person,” said the head of world football’s governing body. “He has charted his own course thanks to his incredible will, and has done so with great humility. In his day he was a brilliant athlete, and though he remains an icon, he is, first and foremost, a passionate and generous person who is full of good humour.”
Kubler’s lofty status in world cycling is undisputed. After turning professional in 1940, the man from Marthalen, near Zurich, won the Swiss title on numerous occasions and was also a three-time winner of the Tour de Suisse. Following the war, Ferdi showed his talent on the international stage, winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Fleche Wallonne classics in 1951 and 1952. A skilled climber, he was also a force to be reckoned with on the flat, and was crowned world road cycling champion in 1951.
The pinnacle of Kubler’s illustrious career came a year earlier, however, when the won the Tour de France, beating the field, which included the great Gino Bartali, by over nine minutes and winning three stages in the process.
Four years later he finished second in the general classification behind the legendary Louison Bobet but claimed the green points jersey. Famed for his ability to peel off the front of the peloton and launch many a successful long-distance attack, he retired from competitive cycling in 1957 at the age of 38. He is currently the oldest surviving former winner of the Tour de France.
“This is a great day because I’ve spent some time with a very good friend of mine,” said the nonagenarian champion after meeting with Blatter. “We spoke a little about the passions we share, and I love seeing him and having a good laugh.”
“We both share the same desire to take on challenges and the same appetite for work,” said an equally effusive Blatter. “That’s why we have so much respect for one another.”