Usain Bolt Officially Begins Soccer Career in Australia
On Tuesday, former Olympic track star Usain Bolt reported for training. No, he’s not training with an eye on the 2020 Summer Olympics. Bolt is currently in Australia in order to practice with the Central Coast Mariners, a professional soccer club in Australia’s A-League.
Bolt, who just turned 32, is set to undertake an “indefinite training period” with the club, whose season gets underway on October 21. The Jamaican track star appeared before the media before the first training session and said, “I’m not setting myself any targets as to ‘this is what I’m going to do.’ I’m just going to put in the work. This is my first chance to get the chance to train and get to the level to play as a professional footballer. I’m here to learn and get better. I’m just here to make them proud and make me proud and do my best.”
The Mariners’ decision to sign Bolt to a contract will be seen as many as a PR stunt. Maybe that’s true, but the club’s coach, Mike Mulvey, believes Bolt has a real chance to contribute on the pitch. The player’s speed is obviously his greatest attribute, and his height (6’5″) figures to make him an appealing target for crosses into the box. He’s far taller than your standard soccer player, but Bolt does have incredible potential as a striker if he can figure it out.
When asked what position he might play, he said, “I started out as a keeper in primary school, and the faster I got the further I moved up the field. I’m okay on the wing and I’m good at center forward.”
Bolt’s speed would obviously be wasted if he were to play goalkeeper, so one would imagine he’ll line up at the front or on the wing.
Mulvey said, “We are delighted that Usain has chosen our community to further his footballing career. The highlight is on the Central Coast, and that’s fine with me.”
Bolt officially retired from track competition last year. He said he wanted to embark on a soccer career, but few took him seriously. Last summer, he trained with German club Borussia Dortmund as well as Mamelodi Sundowns FC in South Africa and Stromsgodset in Norway. Bolt made a 20-minute cameo during a match for the Norwegian’s U-19 side, and things reportedly did not go particularly well for him.
Bolt said that he received offers from lower level clubs in Europe before ultimately deciding to take his talents to Australia. He added, “We got offers from teams in Spain, France, places like that. For me it would have been harder, I would have to learn a new language. Australia is somewhere I enjoy coming to. I’ve come to Australia a lot.”
The Mariners have said that there will be no special treatment for Bolt. He will be treated the same way every other player on the squad is treated. Bolt favors his left foot, and he reportedly looked decent enough during the initial light training session.
The team’s home stadium seats 20,000, making it the second-smallest venue in the A-League.
Bolt added, “I’m entirely out of my comfort zone but that’s why I am here. It is just like track and field. The first day of training is always the roughest one. But if felt OK. I came to work and I’m ready to work. I’m very cool under pressure. I have an ability to understand very quickly and learn very quickly, and I think I see the game very well. I’m just going to put in the work. I have to get fit. I’m just here to push myself, learn and get better. As I told the coach from the start, I’m here with a blank slate.”
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