I will never understand player ‘unveilings’ in football. In fact, I actually don’t understand the process in any way, shape or form. Are they free to attend? Do you need to purchase tickets in advance or can you just show up if you’ve got nothing on? Do Barcelona unveil all their signings, or only those purchased for obscene amounts of money? I just googled ‘Alex Song unveiling’ and he didn’t get the Nou Camp turf to himself – instead he performed the classic ‘hold up the number 25 shirt and pretend that’s not the maximum number of appearances you’re going to make this season’ ritual.
I’ve seen two videos recently showing Theo Hernandez and Ousmane Dembele respectively entitled ‘unveiling fail’, where footage shows some scruffy attempts at keeping a ball from touching the floor in front of a sizeable home crowd. Admittedly, Dembele’s half-hearted attempt at a rainbow flick following his three keepy-ups did make me chuckle, but at the same time, I felt bad for doing so. The failed attempt was so rushed and devoid of composure; you could see the moment of panic where the poor man decided to risk pulling off the spectacular to make up for dropping the ball. Alas, no such spectacular occurred. Instead, an entire entourage of excited Catalans witnessed what I’ve seen my poorly coordinated younger sister frequently execute in the back garden.
If anything, these unveilings ruin the suspense. When Birmingham signed David Dunn all those years ago who knew he would treat us to a failed rabona that would lead to a semi-serious injury for the midfielder? I say keep the illusion; if a young man such as Dembele has the pressure of a hefty price tag to live up to over the next few years, surely it’s best not to pile unnecessary pressure on the boy?
The biggest problem I have with the whole process is why anyone would ask a world-class player – someone who’s worked on all aspects of their game for years in an attempt to become the very best – to perform keepy-ups in front of a host of television cameras. At least tailor the unveiling to the player – ask Marcos Alonso to plant a free kick into the top corner. Ask Suarez to throw himself to the ground a few times. Send a member of the audience onto the pitch and ask Lee Cattermole to produce a stunning two-footed challenge.
Unveilings should be less about showboating and more about reality. Picture the scene, June 2016: Vincent Janssen walks into White Hart Lane to a cacophony of cheers from the Tottenham faithful. He strolls to the dugout to give a small taster of his part in the Spurs’ title challenge as he proceeds to sit on the bench for 80 minutes. Vincent eventually walks towards a loose ball in the six-yard box and calmly strokes it wide of the post. The crowd groans. All is well at the Lane.