On the day of his official presentation as a new Barça footballer, Ousmane Dembélé interpreted an exercise in sincerity that the excited looks of fans, managers and accredited journalists were not able to detect. Coming off as a freestyle freak on a first date isn’t much use but it’s exciting, it’s a good start, the football equivalent of lobster salad at a romantic dinner. Nobody becomes bitter by a candy. And much less a good piece of seafood with its tender shoots, the meaty guacamole, the mango sauce and some pomegranate tears. Dembélé, however, missed the ball several times, did not complete any of the attempted fantasies, and left the Camp Nou pitch with the same circumspect face as someone who breaks a bottle of wine in El Corte Inglés and knows that, as shortly, the cameras will have recorded it. “Better this than stealing some creams”, the Frenchman would think on the way to a locker room that has stepped on much less than expected.
His numbers do not fool anyone, although he and his representative take pains to appear otherwise. Sitting down to negotiate after having spent so much time lying down, well injured, well off, requires a determined attitude in which the past does not matter and merits are quantified in the future, like those accounts of the milkmaid who begins by stealing a goat and ends up making cheese in the workshops of a prison, along with other dreamers of the same caliber. It is a figurative prison, of course. And of a fictitious assumption, like the soccer of this boy to whom great conditions are attributed to him and very little desire to demonstrate them, at least for the moment. “Faced with the vice of asking is the virtue of not giving”, often say professional smokers, those who always carry their own tobacco and are not willing to share it with the first one who puts a hand on their shoulder, which is the prelude to any scam. That’s what the directors and executives of Barça should cling to if they don’t want to be like cousins at the gates of any institute, cafeteria or shopping center.
Insisting on the renewal of the Frenchman, beyond the current economic motivations -to gain space in the wage bill, to enable a future transfer that helps lick the wounds of his signing-, does not do Dembélé himself any good, who needs as soon as possible of a bath of reality to redirect his career and write a story, whatever it is, away from conditional tenses more typical of advertisements than of any other form of literature.
That presentation in society, that Dantesque show of lost balls against nothing, should be enough reason to accuse him of laziness or unbridled sincerity, a common evil among a generation of social networks and poetic communications that always claims to be face to face, with the truth ahead . It is the same passive-aggressive attitude that my mother has with her gym classmates, whom they have not seen for more than two months due to an alleged injury that some days is elbow and others knee: impossible not to imagine the two as friends of Facebook or sharing, god forbid, fresh salad recipes to succeed on a first date.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.