Football: Usain Bolt world-class sprinter but not world-class footballer

Bolt scores two goals for A-League football club Central Coast Mariners in his first start for the club against Macarthur South West United in Sydney on Friday.
2018: Bolt scores two goals for A-League football club Central Coast Mariners in his first start for the club against Macarthur South West United in Sydney on Friday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Usain Bolt wins the 100m final with ease at the Beijing Olympics, clocking 9.69sec.
Usain Bolt wins the 100m final with ease at the Beijing Olympics, clocking 9.69sec.ST FILE PHOTO

SYDNEY • They were just two goals in a football friendly in Australia. But like their scorer, Usain Bolt, their impact was akin to a lightning bolt striking the pitch during a match.

Despite the headlines, the jury is still out on whether the Jamaican sprint king, owner of eight Olympic gold medals, can make a successful transition to professional football.

For a start, his coach at Australian A-League club Central Coast Mariners, Mike Mulvey, feels that Bolt, who scored twice in Friday's 4-0 win over Macarthur South West, still has a long way to go.

"I'm very, very happy for him," Mulvey told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The bottom line is, Usain Bolt was a world-class athlete and is probably the greatest athlete who's ever lived, in my humble opinion.

"But he's been retired from athletics for 12 months, and he hadn't done much in that 12 months. We have an athlete who was going to train as a football player, and learn football fitness.

"We said 12 months to start with, and I think that we're all in agreement, we'll look at about January. But we can see improvement."

Following his retirement after the World Championships last year, the 32-year-old Jamaican has been training in an effort to make a professional football debut.

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The Manchester United fan has had stints with German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, Norwegian top-flight team Stromsgodset and South African club Sundowns, before he started training with the Mariners in August.

Before Friday, he also featured in a 20-minute cameo in a 6-1 win over amateur side Central Coast Select.

"All I can do is do what I wanted to do - prove myself," he said. "They've seen what I'm capable of, how I am training, they need to analyse and determine if I'm good enough for the club."

Besides receiving a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 75th minute, Bolt also earned the praise of former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who tweeted: "Great movement and finish!"

Twitter account @FootyHumour also made a joke about how Bolt has now one more goal than United forward Alexis Sanchez this season.

However, former Australia goalkeeper Mark Bosnich said Bolt still needs a lot of improvement.

"Slight improvement if you want to say that but his touch is still very poor," Bosnich, a Fox Sports commentator, said during the match.

"His speed endurance is a little bit better but he still looked tired after 15-20 minutes. He just looks a little bit sharper, not a great deal to be honest. There's a slight improvement but not very much."

The Mariners' next game is an A-League match next Sunday. It is unclear when Bolt will play next.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 14, 2018, with the headline 'Bolt world-class sprinter but not world-class footballer'. Print Edition | Subscribe