Usain Bolt scored twice in a pre-season match for the Central Coast Mariners last weekend, as a crowd of over 6,000 braved the rain to come out to Campbelltown to watch him play Macarthur South West United. Bolt used his height and speed to create two chances in the first half, missing both, before striking twice in the second and being substituted at the 75th minute.
Although both goals were reasonably cheap, they at least showed that Bolt knows where the net is and has the ability to put the ball there. Usain Bolt doing his trademark “lightning bolt” celebration wearing a Mariners jersey has also now been seen all over the world, in the best marketing stunt possible for the A-League.
Although Bolt’s best assets were enthusiasm and raw speed, the ability to play football is at least there, and he will now be a chance of starting for the Mariners against the Brisbane Roar this week. Even if he isn’t the most talented striker in the A-League, Bolt’s presence would be a drawcard in itself and would generate some much needed money (and interest) for Australia’s national league.
The debate around Bolt is primarily focused on how much money the Mariners and A-League should pay him. There’s no doubt that he is a marketers dream, but many feel that there are better, Australian players who deserve the amount of money that Bolt would command. The counterpoint to that, of course, is the number of people who would turn up to see Bolt play and the revenue that could be generated through him.
In the end Bolt is unlikely to play for the Mariners this year, although with a lot of practice (which, to be fair to him, he is putting in) he might appear towards the back end of the season. A January contract is being mooted around football circles at the moment, so look for him to make some appearances off the bench early next year – especially if Central Coast are out of serious finals contention by then.