Why is Stephan Lichtsteiner trying to sell me some really expensive keys?

Quick Reads

The former Lazio, Juventus and Arsenal player is looking to take down the “conservative” lock industry. Will he succeed?

Stephan Lichtsteiner, the Swiss full-back who recently spent a season at Arsenal, is known for many things.

He’s the captain of the Swiss national football team, for whom he has 108 caps. He won seven consecutive titles at Juventus alongside the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba. And in terms of domestic trophies, he’s Switzerland’s most successful player of all time.

Now, believe it or not, he wants you to buy a set of keys for £450.

If it sounds strange that a 36-year-old footballer — still active, most recently with Germany’s FC Augsburg — cares so much about how you open and close doors, that’s because it is.

And yet here we are. Earlier this year, Lichtsteiner became the brand ambassador for something called the “Stealth Key”, and since then he’s posted regular tweets about it and starred in a brilliantly over-the-top advert.

He’s gone from Hector Bellerin’s understudy to a connoisseur of home security solutions.

But why?

Lock fans out there will deduce that the Stealth Key, which Swiss company UrbanAlps sells in various formats, is more than your average Yale unit.

In fact, for about half the price of an Arsenal season ticket, you’re actually getting the “world’s safest mechanical key”, which has been 3D printed with its teeth wrapped up on the inside, meaning nobody can see the actual mechanical bit that unlocks your door.

This is important, apparently, and Stephan Lichtsteiner, playing the part of a naive businessman, can explain why:

The gist is that someone can photograph an ordinary key, turn it into a digital 3D model, and then duplicate it with a 3D printer, allowing the devious crook to break into your home and workplace.

Stephan Lichtsteiner’s keys, on the other hand, are resistant to all that.

The question is: what the fuck is this all about?

Admittedly, I now want a Stealth Key slightly more than I want, for example, a glass of Spey whisky or an investment in the Ronaldinho Soccer Coin, and that’s mostly down to Lichtsteiner’s steady performance in the advert.

Steady like his performances with Augsburg, you might say: in his second match with the German club, he set up a goal in the first minute and received a red card in the 34th.

Augsburg evaded relegation by five points.

But there are things I don’t understand about the advert, and about the project as a whole.

Like why the thief is wearing leather gloves to use a touchscreen smartphone. And why the 90-second clip gives me a burning desire to buy a 3D printer — and with it the ability to open myriad doors — instead of a £450 key, which opens just one door.

Really, the sales pitch induces mixed feelings about 3D printers, since the purpose of the Stealth Key is to prevent printer-assisted burglary but the key is itself 3D printed.

Perhaps Lichtsteiner can explain better.

“Today anyone can duplicate most keys with a smartphone and a cheap 3D printer,” he says. “This renders most locks around the world unsafe — to call that a problem would be an understatement.”

Indeed.

It still seems odd though. This is unlike your typical footballer product endorsement: it’s hardly glamorous, and Lichtsteiner seems genuinely committed to the endeavour.

Committed like he has always been on the football pitch, that is. Fans nicknamed him “Forrest Gump” because he never stopped running.

But according to Alejandro Ojeda, the CEO of UrbanAlps, we shouldn’t be surprised that a former Juventus player, one who earned about 50,000 euros a week at his peak, is now investing in cutting-edge key technology.

“The key and Stephan have many traits in common,” Ojeda says. “They are both great defenders, they both stand for Swiss precision, quality and reliability. They truly make a good fit.”

In fact, the man who shares traits with keys also has a longstanding relationship with security.

To understand that history, you have to rewind two decades and picture the budding full-back as a teenage apprentice at a bank in Zurich.

“I had this chance to do a work placement with Credit Suisse whilst playing for Grasshoppers,” he told World Soccer in 2016.

“So, day after day, you would go from training to the bank to school, or from the bank to school to training, and so on.”

You don’t imagine Hector Bellerin did the same as a wild-eyed teen in Barcelona — but then again, the Swiss would look ridiculous with a bun and tiny sunglasses, so who’s the real winner?

One day at the office, disaster struck: Lichtsteiner, counting money with the same diligence with which he marked left-wingers, accidentally struck the alarm button, prompting police to come rushing to the scene and forcing the red-faced junior to explain himself.

“We still laugh about it today,” recalled one of his former supervisors.

Now a man of the world, Lichtsteiner chose to become captain of the Swiss national football team and left the voluptuous world of locks and security alarms behind him.

We can’t begrudge him going back, but I probably won’t buy a Stealth Key.

By Benedict O’Neill


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