Sydney: Eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt will trial for six weeks with the Central Coast Mariners from next month in a deal which could see him play for a season in Australian football’s A-League.
Australian football agent Tony Rallis said on Monday a “deal between the Mariners and Usain Bolt in principle has been agreed, subject to a couple of benchmarks”.
Rallis said it would be necessary for the 31-year-old Bolt to trial and for Football Federation Australia to support his salary.
“Once the FFA comes back and says that they’ll be part of the process, we’re going to the trial,” Rallis said
Bolt has a long-held ambition to play professional football and, since his retirement from the track, has trialed with Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and Stromsgodset in Norway.
“If he’s competitive, he will lift our A-League profile,” Rallis said. “He will create dreams for young people and he will give the A-League a profile no amount of money can buy. This bloke’s an ambitious athlete. The A-League needed a hero and we got superman.”
Rallis said the owner of the Mariners would guarantee 70 per cent of his salary and the FFA would be expected to fund the remainder.
Rallis told Channel Nine Bolt was serious about becoming a footballer player.
“He is dead-set serious to be the best he can possibly be. We think that his best will be enough to play or play a part in an A-League competition,” he said.
Rallis stressed this was not a gimmick.
“It is, mainly, a trial, and of course marquee funds support from the FFA,” he said.
Bolt retired from athletics in 2017. “I’ve just done everything I wanted to do in the sport,” Bolt said in February that year.
The 31-year-old has not commented on the deal. In September 2017 he said he wanted to just “be a bum” for a while, but said he was not ruling out a and flagged football as a sport of interest.
“The sport it could be is football — as a massive Man United fan, we’ll see,” he said.
Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said there was still a lot of work to do and a trial was imperative to determine Bolt’s skill level.
“It would only be big if he can play and if he can go really, really well,” he said. “Because if he comes and he’s not up to the level then it actually has a detrimental effect.
“But if he comes and he’s as good as our reports are saying that he can be, then that would be very exciting and I’m sure that this stadium would be pretty full every time he put the boots on.”
Mielekamp said his club had been working on the agreement for four to five months.
“But fingers crossed things might play out, but the most important thing is we wait to find out and see how good a footballer he is first.
“If all goes well, who knows? He may be playing in the A-League this season.”
Mielekamp said reports of Bolt’s performance at the European clubs he has trialled with have been “pretty good”, and that “every time he trains, he improves significantly”.
“He has a very good left foot, and time will tell at what level he is at and if it fits the A-League ... it would only be big if he could play and go really well,” he said.
Bolt has dominated sprinting since taking double individual gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
He went on to win a further six Olympic golds and pick up 11 world titles.
The A-League season starts in October.