Usain Bolt, Jamaican eight-time Olympic champion sprinter, and the world’s fastest man, is planning to train with the Central Coast Mariners soccer club, which is part of the top men’s league, the A-League, in Australia, for six weeks. The club issued a statement saying it was committed to discussing options with the sprint superstar to see what role he could play in becoming a member of the team. Whether he joins the team or not depends upon his performance during the six-week trial. No contract has been guaranteed, the club stated.
Bolt, who holds the world’s record times in the 100-meter and 200-meter distances, is hoping to sign a contract with the team and become a professional soccer player, according to an interview with NPR’s sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Bolt has been serious about joining soccer since his retirement from track and field in 2017. He had played soccer as a child before he switched sports to become the world’s most recognizable athlete for his achievements in running.
Bolt has previously trained with German Borussia Dortmund and Norwegian Stromsgodset soccer teams, with officials from those teams having different views of his ability in the sport. The director of football for the Norwegian team said Bolt was a great football player, while the head coach of the German team said the runner had a lot of work to do to become a full-time soccer professional.
Some observers believe that Australia’s offer to Bolt may be rooted in the A-League’s desire to raise attendance at its matches. The Central Coast Mariners had the second lowest attendance average last season, so they would expect a “Bolt bump.” When he participated in an open training session with the German team, some 1,400 fans showed up to watch him
Goldman believes Bolt has a chance to become a good soccer player because he is a superstar athlete. As a sprinter, Bolt is known for his slow starts, but once he gets going, he is hard to beat. This is a different kind of running than that which usually occurs in soccer, where there are “bursts and slashing, cutting runs.” Goldman says that Bolt could be useful on counter-attacks, however, by “running the length of the field and sprinting by everyone.” It remains to be seen how Bolt performs in other aspects of the sport, such as handling and heading the ball. His height, which is 6 feet, 5 inches, would likely be a help around the goal to head in a corner kick, Goldman noted.
News of Bolt’s interest in the A-League in Australia coincided with the retirement from global competition of Australian soccer legend Tim Cahill. Cahill was part of his country’s World Cup team after scoring two goals in a playoff with Jordan to get to the Finals.
Photo source: Usain Bolt IG