In the coming weeks, the world’s fastest man may jump from the race track to the soccer field.
Usain Bolt, who retired from a legendary career in racing in 2017, is reportedly in negotiations to play in a six-week trial with the Central Coast Mariners, a professional soccer team in Australia, reports the BBC. Once the trial ends, Bolt will be up to earn a full season’s contract if the team decides to sign him.
While speaking with the BBC, Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said the team — which operates out of the country’s A-League — has worked to land the Olympic legend over the past four months.
“If all goes well, who knows?” Mielekamp told Seven Network, according to the BBC. “He may be lighting up the A-League this season.”
Whether Bolt excels in the trial or not, the chances the team brings him on seems pretty high, if only considering the star power and publicity he would bring with his arrival.
Regardless, Mielekamp insisted that Bolt joining the team is not guaranteed.
“The most important thing is we wait to find out and see how good a footballer he is first,” he continued. “Time will tell at what level he is at and if it fits the A-League.”
Sports agent Tony Rallis, who is involved in the deal between the Mariners and Bolt, told Sky Sports Radio that the two sides have agreed and are now negotiating a “multi-million dollar” deal.
“The owner of Central Coast Mariners has put his hand deep in his pocket,” Rallis told the radio station, “and guaranteed 70 percent of the salary.”
According to NPR, the Mariners play their games in Gosford, located about an hour from Sydney. Out of last season’s 27 games, the team only won four of them and finished last in the league. If anyone could bring them out of the slump, an eight-time Olympic gold medalist may be the trick.
“If he comes and he’s as good as our reports are saying that he can be, then that would be very exciting,” Mielekamp told the Associated Press. “I’m sure that this stadium would be pretty full every time he put the boots on.”
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But not everyone is sold on Bolt’s arrival, and, according to the New York Times, many in Austrailia feel Bolt trial is simply a publicity stunt for a flailing team. Bolt said that’s not the case.
“For me, it’s a big deal,” he told the Herald Sun. “Everyone feels like I’m just kidding around, just joking, but I’m serious.”
Despite the criticism, the thought of Bolt scoring in a Mariners uniform is all too enticing to Mielekamp.
“When he [Bolt] does perform and when he does score a goal, that’s the big moment,” Mielekamp said on the team’s website. “That’s the bit that everyone wants. Let’s not shut the door on that opportunity. Let’s see if it will become a reality.”