Usain Bolt hasn’t been signed by a football club yet but Central Coast Mariners FC, the Australian club which he has been training with, got him involved in a preseason friendly on Friday. Bolt has previously played in some football games in the past such as Hublot’s ‘Match of Friendship’ and UNICEF’s ‘Soccer Aid Game’, but none of them have been for a professional football club.
A big fan of Manchester United, Bolt was open about his desire to play football professionally during his eight-year Olympic reign. About his possible participation in the upcoming game, the club’s head coach Mike Mulvey talked about Bolt’s progress on the CC Mariners website
“He doesn’t have football fitness, which is natural. We have not brought him in and said you have to do this and do that by this time,” said Mariners coach Mike Mulvey, who has given Bolt an indefinite time to prove himself.
“For this Friday, it comes down to what the fitness coaches tell me with regards to how his body’s coping with the loading we’ve got at the moment. “But I would imagine he’s going to be playing some part on Friday,” Mulvey said.
The Jamaican sprint legend is all set to make his Central Coast Mariners debut against a team of local amateurs in Gosford. He is expected to come off the bench for a late cameo on the left wing in the friendly against a Central Coast Select XI as he works towards his dream of earning a playing contract and becoming a professional footballer.
“There will be nerves, definitely. It’s not like a charity game anymore, this is a career I’m pursuing,” said Bolt.
“I expect to make mistakes, but I also expect to go in, make myself proud and push myself.”
“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.”
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) August 21, 2018
And Bolt did his best.
The 32-year-old was injected into the action in the 71st minute, wearing the No. 95 on his back, in reference to the 9.58 seconds he ran over 100m for the world’s record.
The multiple Olympic gold medallist showed good movement and awareness and even had a couple of half chances in front of goal after starting on the left and eventually playing in a more advanced role.
With some heavy touches and poor passing on Friday night, Bolt will need a lot more work.
“I was happy to be out there and to get the experience was pretty cool,” he said after the game.
“I think the first 15 minutes was pretty good, but the last five I could feel my back getting a bit tight, but overall I wasn’t too tired, so that’s a good sign.
“I think my fitness is much better from the first week to the second week. I need to keep pushing myself.”
Bolt gave himself two months to reach peak match fitness, and another two months to “be playing like one of the guys”.
The Jamaican dominated sprinting after taking double individual gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and he remains the world record holder for the 100 metres. He went on to win a further six Olympic golds and pick up 11 world titles before retiring last year and pursuing his passion for football.
Despite Bolt being likely to spend most of the game on the bench, his presence at the club’s base in Gosford, Sydney, has generated global excitement. A crowd of around 10,000 is expected to cram into the Central Coast Stadium — unprecedented for an A-League pre-season fixture. And the club, which finished bottom of the domestic A-League last season, is planning fireworks and other entertainment as well. It will also be broadcast live on pay TV.
The Mariners kick off their A-League season away to Brisbane Roar on 21 October.