HE OF THE SEAL DRIBBLE
Roberto Rivelino did it. Johan Cruyff did it. Diego Maradona did it. That ‘it’ is, of course, invented or pioneered an outrageous piece of trickery. But now there’s a new kid on the block, who has added himself to this celebrated list.
His name is Kerlon, and he is the latest in a long line of incredibly gifted Brazilians, to stun the world of football with a magical piece of skill. His party piece – the aptly named ‘seal dribble’ – is, perhaps, even more flamboyant than those distinguished moves trademarked by the aforementioned legends.
Swiftly flicking the ball up from the turf onto his head, Kerlon then proceeds to glide past opponents, whilst bouncing the ball on top of his forehead. The speed, at which he travels when doing this, is mind-blowing, and the delicacy with which Kerlon connects with the ball, means that it stays remarkably close to his head as he advances forward.
Couple this with his unique ability to change direction as he runs with the ball above his nut, evading bewildered opponents, and it’s easy to tell why stopping him is nigh-on impossible. In fact, disillusioned opponents’ only response to the seal dribble has been, to resort to fouling its young exponent.
Kerlon’s piece of skill came to the fore, during the recent South American under-17 Championships in Venezuela – a competition in which he won both the top goalscorer and best player awards – creating a media frenzy in the process.
But it was years ago, that the unlikely trick was invented. The emerging teenager was enjoying an impromptu kickabout with his father Silvino, when his instant control and subsequent ability to keep the ball aloft using only his head, prompted his impressed old man, to encourage the development of a dribble using only his head to touch the ball.
Before long, Kerlon had astounded Silvino by perfecting this move, whilst running at pace and changing direction. And so it was. From then on, Kerlon began to use the seal dribble, with success, during training sessions at Ipatinga – the club he was then associated with.
Although established as his trademark, the player always intended to save use of the dazzling invention, until he made the breakthrough at professional level. However, he was unable to refrain from exhibiting his innovation during the youth event in Venezuela. “I couldn’t wait,” he conceded with a smile.
“It’s just a skill I have, though it’s not meant to be a mark of disrespect for my opponents.
The trick is beautiful and efficient. Sooner or later, defenders will find a way to stop me without conceding a free-kick. But until then, I can keep using the play to my advantage.
“Opponents say they will snap me. But this doesn’t scare me it just motivates me even more.”
But the seal dribble is not the sole reason why Kerlon is being tipped to go on to great things – one doesn’t inherit the number 10 shirt for Brazil, at any level, unless you’re a fine player.
Able to operate in an advanced midfield position, or as a forward, the 17-year-old is an expert dribbler and possesses wonderful ability to slip weighted passes in behind defences.
He is also a free-kick expert, and given the amount of fouls the seal dribble draws, this trait is made all the more beneficial.
Kerlon’s next objective is to convince Cruzeiro coach Levir Culpi, that he is ready to make the progression into the Raposa first team;
“This South American Championships came to change my life, my destiny. I am more mature and I want to be used in the Brazilian Championship. I’m just waiting for the call from Levir.”