Sat, Nov 03, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Bolt’s Australian soccer dream collapses

AFP, SYDNEY

Usain Bolt, top, plays for Central Coast Mariners against Macarthur South West United in a friendly in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 12.

Photo: AFP

Sprint king Usain Bolt’s attempt to become a professional soccer player with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners collapsed yesterday as his trial period was terminated after contract talks failed.

The eight-time Olympic champion had been trying out with the A-League side for an indefinite period since arriving in August, hoping to fulfill a childhood dream to become a soccer player.

The 32-year-old superstar’s quest garnered worldwide attention, which intensified when he scored two goals in a pre-season friendly, but his abilities were questioned and the club reportedly offered him only a fraction of the A$3 million (US$2.1 million) his management were said to be seeking, with outside sponsors needed to make the deal viable.

“As previously stated, the club and [Bolt’s representative] Ricky Simms have been in conversations with external partners to find a commercial solution that suits all parties,” the Mariners said in a statement. “Despite several promising potential partners, both Bolt and the Central Coast Mariners have amicably concluded that they will not be able to settle on a suitable deal in a timely manner.”

The 100m world-record holder, who retired from athletics last year and has previously tried out with clubs in Germany, South Africa and Norway, thanked the Mariners for the opportunity.

“I would like to thank the Central Coast Mariners’ owners, management, staff, players and fans for making me feel so welcome during my time there,” said the Jamaican, who is reportedly in Melbourne and was to head to Europe for a previously agreed commercial engagement. “I wish the club success for the season ahead.”

Bolt recently turned down a trial-free contract from Maltese champions Valletta to focus on trying to make the grade in Australia.

That offer prompted the Mariners to table their own deal, but they did not have the funds to make it work without outside help and coach Mike Mulvey made it clear that Bolt, who favors playing up front, was unlikely to get much game time in the A-League even if he signed, with the team boosting an experienced front line.

It includes Aston Villa marksmen and Scotland international Ross McCormack, who is on a season-long loan deal, and Tommy Oar, who has played 28 times for the Socceroos.

Bolt’s abilities were questioned by pundits and some players, including former Republic of Ireland striker Andy Keogh, who last month said he had a “touch like a trampoline.”

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