Soccer

Usain Bolt to play first game for Central Coast Mariners in quest to go pro

AP

Usain Bolt will make his debut for the Central Coast Mariners on Friday in a preseason exhibition game against an amateur team.

The eight-time Olympic sprinting gold medalist from Jamaica is on trial with the A-League side in the hopes of winning a professional contract.

He has been practicing on the left wing and expects to play about 15 to 20 minutes in that position during Friday’s exhibition match.

Club officials are predicting a crowd of 12,000 for the home game in Gosford, north of Sydney.

Bolt, who is at home on a much larger stage, expected to be nervous in his debut.

“There definitely will be nerves, it’s not like it’s a charity game anymore,” Bolt said. “I expect to make mistakes but I also expect to go out there, make myself proud and to push myself.

“I know I’m not going to have a perfect game.”

Bolt had his first full practice session with the Mariners on Tuesday after taking time to ease into his new role during his first week with the club. He appeared at times to struggle with the pace and demands of training.

Some critics have said Bolt’s bid to turn professional is little more than a gimmick, but staff at the club say they’re givin him a chance to prove himself.

“The thing he’s struggling with more than anything else right now is getting used to the football fitness,” Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said, adding that Bolt is “doing OK” in terms of skills.

“He’s got rudimentary skills, there’s no problem about that ,” Mulvey said. “It’s about being able to do it at the speed that we do it.”

Bolt said he’s finding the nature of soccer training different and demanding but felt he had made some improvement in his first week.

“For me, it’s the stop and go’s, the tick-tacks. Because I’m not used to picking up speed, going back down, up and down, up and down, back and forth, that’s the most challenging,” he said. “The season doesn’t start until the end of October, so I have time.”