SYDNEY - Usain Bolt says he’s deadly serious about becoming a professional soccer player and plans to show the world what he’s capable of after arriving in Australia Saturday for a trial stint with an A-League club.
The superstar athlete has been given the chance to prove his worth by the Central Coast Mariners, who have agreed to let him train with the team indefinitely in his pursuit of a playing contract.
They hope to turn him into A-League material in time for the start of the 2018-19 season in late October.
Bolt, wearing a Mariners scarf, was met by a media scrum at Sydney Airport and said he would push himself hard to make the grade.
“I always put my best foot forward and I’m going to show the world what I’m made of,” he said.
“This is real,” added the 31-year-old when asked if it was simply a stunt.
“I’ve said since my last season of track and field that I want to play football and I know what I can do.
“I’m grateful to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity and am happy to call Australia home for now.”
Bolt has already tried out with teams in Germany, Norway and South Africa, to no avail, since retiring from athletics last year.
Despite being an eight-time Olympic champion and the fastest man on earth, he admitted to being nervous about what lay ahead in the small town of Gosford, 75 km north of Sydney, where the club is based.
“Nerves will always be there, but I’m more excited than anything else,” said the Jamaican, who is set to have his first training session on Tuesday.
Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp has made clear Bolt won’t be getting any special treatment, although extra security guards will be on hand and club training sessions moved to a larger venue to accommodate the legions of fans who are expected to turn up to get a glimpse of Bolt.
“The one thing we’ve been really firm on is that Usain, while trialing for a contract, be treated the same as any player,” Mielekamp said this week.
“Obviously, we understand the realities of having somebody of his profile. But (when it comes to football) there will be no advantages.
“And that’s what Bolt wants — this is about his football journey. He’s coming here for the right reasons.”
In soccer action at the Asian Games in Bandung, Indonesia, winning the gold medal at the got a little more complicated for Tottenham forward Son Heung-min when his belated entry into the tournament for South Korea ended in an upset 2-1 loss to Malaysia.
Son arrived after helping Tottenham to a win over Newcastle in the Premier League last weekend and he missed South Korea’s opening 6-0 win over Bahrain.
He didn’t start Friday’s game against Malaysia and the defending champions were already trailing 2-0 when he finally went on in the 57th minute.