As Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Danny Ainge and Tim Tebow have taught us, life is too short to consider being satisfied by mastering just one sport.
But you have to admit, the site of Usain Bolt playing in his first soccer match for Australia’s Central Coast Mariners on Friday takes the cake.
After being an eight-time Olympic champion sprinter, the Jamaican icon developed an itch to participate in the other sporting love of his life soon after his retirement from track in 2017. And he hopes Friday’s preseason appearance will eventually lead to a spot on the Mariners’ A-League roster come October.
Much like Tebow’s impact on the Minor Leagues the last two seasons, Bolt’s presence attracted 9,958 fans, approximately 2,500 more than the Mariners drew in the regular season in 2017. And the event was broadcast in 60 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.
But in the United States, for example, ESPNU telecast the Central Florida-UConn football game. What can you do?
Those who watched got to see Bolt start on left wing and play about 20 minutes during a 6-1 win over a select side from Central Coast
“I was a little bit nervous, but as soon as I got on the field I think the nerves went away,’ Bolt told Fox Sports. “I wish I had more touches, but I’m not fit yet, but I’ve just got to put in the work and get up to speed.”
According to the Associated Press, Bolt didn’t play too badly. He used his speed to great advantage, beating players to loose balls and moving into scoring position on numerous occasions. At one point, he missed a far post cross and later had a shot blocked during stoppage time.
Bolt really wasn’t expecting too much from himself on Friday. He said before the match that he anticipated it would take about four months to get himself into soccer shape (endurance vs. speed). The Mariners’ training camp will last for six weeks.
“Oh my God, probably four or five months properly [to see him at his best], but to get fit probably two months. … Then to get used to the touch of the passes from my teammates … four months, I will be playing like one of the guys,” Bolt said.
Mariners coach Mike Mulvey eplaced most of his personnel at halftime and Bolt did not re-enter until 72nd minute.
“The fitness guys have told me he’s got a good 20 minutes in him,” Mulvey said.
Bolt didn’t begin his training regime until Tuesday and he looked a little rusty at the start. His contract does not guarantee a spot on the team.
“It is important that we don’t get too caught up in the hype of possibilities, but the reality is that Usain Bolt has placed his faith in the Central Coast Mariners to accelerate his football journey,” said Shaun Mielekamp, the team’s chief executive told the Los Angeles Times. “Whilst we all know this must be tempered with the reality that there is a job to do and hard work ahead, we are committed to building a team that will win matches and instill belief. Hopefully, Usain can help us on this mission.”
Mulvey told the Associated Press during workouts earlier this week that Bolt’s skills were basic.
“I think the thing he’s struggling with more than anything else right now is getting used to the football fitness,” Mulvey said. “He’s got rudimentary skills, there’s no problem about that. It’s about being able to do it at the speed that we do it.”
Bolt admitted it was going to take time to adjust to soccer’s grueling pace.
“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.
“It’s just time,” he said. “I don’t know how my body is going to feel. I know when I’m on the field, I’m always going to push myself.”
This is not Bolt’s first attempt at playing professional soccer. According to the New York Times, Bolt has tried out for several European soccer clubs, including Borussia Dortmund in Germany and Stromsgodset in Norway.
“It’ll be exciting if he’s able to get to the level that we need,” Mielekamp told the New York Times.