Usain Bolt earns training spot with Australian soccer team
If Usain Bolt is going to make it as a soccer player, as he is determined to do, his career will begin in Australia.
Later this month, the eight-time Olympic gold medalist will embark on an “indefinite training period” with the A-League’s Central Coast Mariners.
The 31-year-old Jamaican will begin training on Aug. 18, with an aim to make it on the Mariners’ squad for their season opener on Oct. 21.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to prove that with hard work anything is possible,” Bolt said on social media on Tuesday. “I’m going to come here and do my best.”
To his detractors, he added a further message.
“Watch out I’m on the way. Remember I don’t think limits.”
A big fan of Manchester United, Bolt was open about his desire to play soccer professionally during his eight-year Olympic reign.
His sprinting dominance was punctuated with a “triple double,” clinching golds in the 100 and 200 meters in Beijing, London and Rio. His 2009 world record runs in each event are still intact.
Tempering ‘the hype’
Soon after retiring from athletics last year, Bolt went to work on his second career, training with Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Mamelodi Sundowns FC in South Africa, and Norwegian club Strømsgodset.
If his speed is a given, at 6-foot 5-inches — the same height as LA Galaxy marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic — Bolt represents a combination of size and strength rarely seen in world soccer. His skills on the ball, however, are still a work in progress.
Though the Mariners represent Bolt’s greatest chance to date to play soccer professionally, the club clarified that the agreement “does not guarantee a professional playing contract.”
“It is important that we don’t get too caught up in the hype of possibilities,” Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp said on the club’s website.
“The reality is that Usain Bolt has placed his faith in the Central Coast Mariners to accelerate his football journey.
“Our goal is to be the most innovative, entertaining and community-minded sports brand in Australia, this is our competitive edge,” Mielekamp added.
“Having Usain Bolt come to the club to train and hopefully develop into a professional football player is perfectly aligned to this part of the club’s philosophy.”
Even though Bolt has never kicked a ball professionally, the man widely held as one of the greatest Olympians in history arguably shoots to the top of foreigners employed by the A-League in terms of star power.
Though Melbourne Victory might disagree after signing star Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda Monday. The 32-year-old Honda played 98 times for Japan before announcing his retirement after the World Cup in Russia.
Other stars who extended their careers Down Under have included former Juventus legend Alessandro del Piero, who scored 24 goals in two seasons, and Trinidadian ex-Manchester United star Dwight Yorke.
The Mariners play in the Sydney suburb of Gosford to a capacity crowd of just over 20,000.
It’s a far cry from Manchester United’s Old Trafford — where Bolt said playing would be “epic” and “a dream come true” — but it’s a start.
“I look forward to the challenge,” Bolt said.