Usain Bolt today landed in Australia where he is set to undergo a trial with A-League side Central Coast Mariners, and finally turn his dream of becoming a professional footballer into a reality.
The retired sprinter is no stranger to the world of football, having trained with Manchester United and gone on trial with Borussia Dortmund in recent times.
Bolt has repeatedly expressed his desire to become a professional footballer. To him, this is an attainable goal.
But how do the clubs view it? Clearly, someone with Bolt’s lack of experience would never make the grade at a top European side. At 31-years old, there will also be little room for growth. This is something echoed by Barcelona legend Xavi.
I love Usain Bolt, he’s a great athlete. Physically, nobody comes close. Who runs faster than him? No one. But with all due respect to him, he will never make any difference on a football pitch.
Because we cannot supplant mental speed and game intelligence with physical abilities. It’s impossible.
The Australian case is all the more interesting. Could the Jamaican conceivably make the cut in the A-League?
A more pertinent question may be, do the club even care? Usain Bolt is one of the biggest sports stars on the planet as well as a major personality, and the global media attention he is sure to bring over the coming weeks will be very valuable. This is especially true for a team in a league which does not have the highest profile.
Speaking to The Australian, Central Coast Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp has even hinted at such.
Of course, I am aware of what is being said out there, but this is why we are taking things one step at a time and going through a process for him to train and develop.
I say to them, we are a small club and that you know we need to grow and if this is one of the opportunities for the Central Coast Mariners to significantly grow for the long term then this is an opportunity nobody can deny us.
Bolt is obviously an incredible athlete and if his pace could be used in the correct way it would be a weapon on the pitch, but it is unlikely he will ever be good enough to be a professional footballer, even in an environment such as the A-League.
The situation is reminiscent to that of another top athlete who attempted to change codes over two decades ago.
Michael Jordan was at the peak of his powers in 1993, coming off the back of a third consecutive NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, when he suddenly announced his retirement. He wanted to follow his dream of playing professional baseball.
Jordan’s father had been killed earlier, and he had always wanted his son to pursue a career in baseball. This is was a huge factor in his decision.
He quickly signed a contract with the Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox, who were under the same ownership as the Bulls. He would never play for the White Sox, instead turning out for their Minor League affiliate the Double-A Birmingham Barons for a solitary season.
The Jordan situation was seen by many as a publicity stunt by the White Sox, and it is not hard to draw parallels between his situation and Usain Bolt’s.
While both men believed they genuinely could make it in their new sport, it is likely their new teams viewed them as a gimmick who would generate some media attention and sell tickets.
Just look at the reaction to the news Bolt would go on trial with the Mariners.
This is most likely a publicity stunt for the Mariners, for Bolt this is the real deal.
This is real, I’ve said it since my last season of track and field I want to play football, I know what I’m capable of, I know what I can do, so I’m thankful to the Mariners for giving me this opportunity to show what I’m capable of.
I always put my best foot forward and I’m just going to show the world what I’m made of.
It will be interesting to watch this play out over the next few weeks.