Bolt Kicks Off Football Career With 18-Minute Stint
Substitute appearance in friendly for Jamaican sprint icon draws criticism
Usain Bolt took a step closer to his dream of becoming a professional footballer on Friday, after making a brief substitute appearance for Australian club Central Coast Mariners in their 6-1 thrashing of amateurs Central Coast Select.
The Jamaican ex-Olympic sprinter, whose goal is to sign professional terms for a top-tier team, came off the bench on 72 minutes to try to impress the A-League outfit who he is currently on trial with.
With a bumper-sized crowd of just under 10,000 inside the Central Coast Stadium in Gosford near Sydney, the Mariners roared into a 3-0 lead within 15 minutes of the one-sided affair.
And by half-time it was 5-0, Bolt followed tightly throughout by security guards as he strolled up and down the sidelines to applaud the goals.
The Jamaican, who wasn’t selected for the Mariners previous friendly last weekend – a 2-2 stalemate against Newcastle Jets – got the nod to take to the pitch halfway through the second half.
Despite the big build up to his debut, huge chants of his name and fireworks launched, he made a mess of his inaugural touch but smiled to his adoring fans over his botched error.
The 32-year-old made amends shortly after by heading a cross into the goal area and soon showed some glimpses of neat footwork on the left flank.
Eager to impress, the 6’5″ former sprint king also sent a few ambitious goal-scoring opportunities wide of the target as the Mariners wrapped up a deserved 6-1 success.
With the A-League season kicking off in October and just 10 teams competing then the Mariners, who finished rock bottom last term with only four wins from 27 games, cannot afford to play Bolt out of vanity.
Bolt, who admitted it could take four to five months before he gets fully fit for the A-League, said: “I’ve just got to put in the work and get up to speed, but I’m looking forward to a great season.
“It was good, the crowd gave me a good ovation and I appreciate that. I wish I had more touches but I’m not fit yet.”
Friday’s match was very different to the last time that Bolt played in a friendly. He was a surprise selection for the All Star XI that tackled Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and the rest the France 1998 World Cup winners in an exhibition match in Paris to mark the 20-year anniversary since their victory.
Mark Bosnich, a former Manchester United and Australia goalkeeper watched Bolt’s debut Down Under but was highly critical of his skill level.
Bosnich claimed: “He needs a lot of work. Forget about the fitness, he needs a lot of work on his skill.
“He mentioned four or five months, so the question the club have got to ask themselves is are they going to stand by him? They are going to have to be patient with him.”
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