Does Usain Bolt have what it takes?1:34
Football: Usain Bolt will take a 6-week trial with the Central Coast Mariners with the chance to earn a 1-year contract. Does he have to skills to become a professional footballer?
FOOTBALL commentators have been cracking jokes about the A-League’s confirmed play to lure sprint king Usain Bolt to play football Australia.
Bolt’s agent in Australia Tony Rallis says an “in-principle” deal has been reached to bring the eight-time Olympic gold medallist to the Central Coast Mariners for a six-week trial.
However, both parties reportedly also envision the trial will turn into a season-long contract for Bolt to make his professional football debut in the A-League.
The issue clouding Bolt’s potential A-League deal is that it reportedly hinges on Football Federation Australia agreeing to kick-in an additional $900,000 from its marquee player fund to top-up Bolt’s salary at the Mariners.
Rallis is currently in the UK and has been dealing directly with Bolt’s representative Ricky Simms, who he says is fully supportive of the idea.
Bolt, 31, retired from sprinting last year but has long harboured ambitions of a career in football.
“We’ve got a club that’s willing to allow him to trial and offer him the contract,” Rallis told AAP.
“We’ve got an athlete that’s prepared to meet the trial criteria and benchmarks.
“We just need some funding from the FFA to top it up.”
The FFA has declined to comment, but it’s understood the governing body will not put funds towards a trial under any circumstances.
However, Rallis said that was not what he was after.
“We’re not asking them to fund a trial. If it materialises into a contract, that’s when we need some funding,” he said.
“We’re going through the proper channels, we’re just waiting for a reply.”
FFA has a pot of $3 million, provided by Fox Sports, to spend on marquee players for the upcoming season.
FFA is believed to be deep in talks with former Japanese international Keisuke Honda, who is interested in joining Melbourne Victory and would command the majority of the fund if he reaches an agreement with the A-League champions. Conceivably, the rest could be allocated to Bolt in the event of a successful trial in Gosford.
While many football commentators openly made jokes about the bizarre situation, Fox Sports caller Simon Hill wasn’t laughing on Tuesday when he told SEN Breakfast the play for Bolt would have a long-term detrimental affect on the A-League’s reputation.
He said he is supportive of the notion of giving Bolt exposure to training with a professional Australian club on the Central Coast, but launched a public plea for the club and the FFA to re-think the concept of Bolt playing for a season in the A-League.
“If it’s a marketing stunt then great, it’s got people talking about the A-League, I don’t mind that,” Hill told SEN Breakfast.
“If they’re being serious, no. Please. The guy, as brilliant an athlete as he was and is, he isn’t a professional footballer.
“He might be quite handy, I don’t know, but for me, if we are going to go down that road, we are reducing the A-League to a sideshow, a circus freak show, a gimmick.
“We don’t need it. The league is a serious competition.
“If we are going to bring in big stars, then let’s get proper marquee players, for which you have to pay.”
Many others found the whole situation a joke.
At least Usain Bolt will give the Central Coast Mariners a chance to try out their new 10-0-0-1 formation.— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) July 17, 2018
BREAKING: Central Coast Mariners sign Mbappe for a 6-week trial. pic.twitter.com/dKtnk0JbpB— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) July 17, 2018
Usain Bolt on trial at an A-League team... his card in FIFA would be fun surprised if he actually signs ?? pic.twitter.com/RF20i1yqkn— Matt Craig (@MattHDGamer) July 17, 2018
Ah, Usain Bolt playing in the A-League. What better way to prove that it is a serious professional football league with high standards?— Ben Pobjie (@benpobjie) July 16, 2018
If he does get a contract I feel for the poor up-and-coming player who misses out on a full-time spot in the squad for a marketing push. Just like I did for the spot Andrew Johns took at NSW Cricket T20 in games, and the girl who lost out to Ash Barty at the Brisbane Heat. https://t.co/l7Xly7EmXc— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) July 16, 2018
I never said bringing him is good for the league. I said it’s a sugar hit and good publicity. But that’s all. At 31yo He isn’t going to cut it as a player. I prefer CCM went for a big name marquee— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) July 17, 2018
The Mariners, who finished bottom of the table last season, earlier confirmed they were “committed to discussions” with Bolt and his management team.
“It is crucial to note that all discussions between the Central Coast Mariners and Bolt require an initial six-week-trial period and no contract is guaranteed,” a club statement read.
Bolt played in a charity match for Unicef last month in London, captaining a “Soccer Aid World XI” team that featured Robbie Williams, Kevin Pietersen and Yaya Toure.
The team was co-coached by Eric Cantona and Harry Redknapp, who previously served as an ‘advisor’ to the Mariners in 2016.
Bolt reportedly had a goal chalked off for offside and hit the crossbar but scored in a penalty shootout, having warmed up for the match with a 20-minute spell for Norweigian side Stromsgodset in a friendly against Norway’s under-19s.
He has previously trained with clubs including Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and also played a practice match with Melbourne Heart’s youth team during a 2012 visit to Australia.
— with AAP