Sprint king Usain Bolt has been linked to the Central Coast Mariners in a move that has stunned both the athletics and football worlds. Reports have emerged that Bolt and the Mariners have agreed to a 6 week trial to see if Bolt is good enough to make the squad, with a potential season-long contract on the line.
Usain Bolt has made no secret of his desire to play a professional team sport following his retirement from sprinting. He grew up playing football and cricket, and assisted the Australian cricket team in their preparations for last year’s Ashes series. Bolt has also featured in numerous celebrity cricket games, where he has proved a handy fast bowler and powerful batsman.
The world’s fastest ever man has trialled with professional football clubs before, attempting to break into the team of German giant Dortmund earlier this year, as well as Stromsgodset in Norway. Having failed to make it in Europe, Usain Bolt will now try to enter professional football in the lower level A-League.
The main problem is money, with the Mariners saying that they will need the A-League to use some of its marquee player fund to attract Bolt. Many in the Australian footballing community believe the money could be better spent on luring football stars to Australia, but even the full marquee player fund is only $3 million, which is not enough to get recognisable names into the A-League for even a few months.
Usain Bolt has undeniable drawing power – 1400 people came to watch an open training session during his trial with Dortmund. He would likely massively increase crowds at Mariners matches, especially away games where he would only be at the stadium once or twice over the season, as well as merchandise sales. If he has even mediocre ability (by A-League standards) there is a clear financial imperative to sign him.
The only problem is that if Bolt is clearly not up to standard, the A-League will lose a lot of status as a footballing competition. He will need to impress during his trial period in order to overcome the doubters and earn his place.