Football: Usain Bolt sees first start for Central Coast Mariners in friendly as crucial to pro ambition

Usain Bolt (right), playing for A-League football club Central Coast Mariners, fights for the ball during a pre-season practice football match in Gosford, New South Wales, on Aug 31, 2018.
Usain Bolt (right), playing for A-League football club Central Coast Mariners, fights for the ball during a pre-season practice football match in Gosford, New South Wales, on Aug 31, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Retired sprint superstar Usain Bolt looks set to make his first start as a professional footballer on Friday (Oct 12), a challenge he said could determine if he has a future in the sport of his boyhood dreams.

The 32-year-old said the coach of his Central Coast Mariners, Mike Mulvey, had indicated he would be in the starting line-up in a friendly against Macarthur South West United in Sydney.

"For me, that's always a good step, when the coach is satisfied with your fitness to put you in the starting line-up - that's always a big step," he told Mariners' club media on Wednesday.

"I am just happy to get the chance and go out there and start, and do my best because that is the key thing."

The eight-gold Olympian made his footballing debut in late August in a 20-minute cameo as a substitute on the left wing, nearly scoring but tiring quickly.

Bolt said he had improved his fitness since, and expected to spend more time up front.

"My movement and my touch is much better now," he said. "I've learnt how to set my body and where to place the ball."

The A-League has been struggling in recent years with fewer fans and dwindling TV ratings, with football chiefs hoping the arrival of big names like Bolt will boost local interest.

The 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay world record holder said he expected some nerves when out on the pitch, but was excited by the opportunity to prove his worth as a footballer.

"This will be a big game. I think it will determine if the club makes up its mind on what to do with my career. So for me it's a very important game," he said.

"I'm looking forward to prove myself."