At least one A-League coach has questioned the wisdom of signing former sprint king Usain Bolt to participate in the competition, after claiming the move could stifle the prospects of upcoming homegrown Australian talent.
The 32-year-old Bolt, who has long expressed a desire to become a professional footballer, joined up with A-League club Central Coast Mariners for an indefinite training spell two weeks ago with the hope of fulfilling that dream.
The move is geared towards signing a professional contract, once the athlete proves himself capable on the pitch. Many, however, believe the trial is part of a major publicity stunt on the part of the league, designed to focus attention on the competition and bring patrons to the stand.
Germany-born Adelaide United coach Marco Kurz did not specifically decry the move as the PR stunt previously described but seems to have his doubts.
“It’s up to . . . Usain Bolt, but if you will improve the league then you must bring quality,” Kurz said yesterday. “And he must have a higher quality than the players that are here. That is, for me, the point. If it’s only to bring some more supporters on the game day in the stadium, it’s for me not the right way,” he added.
“Because I think the aim for the league must be to improve young Australian players and not to bring a sprinter in (their) position,” he said.
“I will see what is the next step of Usain Bolt but for sure he must have the quality to play . . . he is fast enough but I don’t know about Usain if he is good on the ball or not. I know him as a perfect sprinter but not as a footballer.”
Meanwhile, Bolt said he was not used to the changeable pace of top-level football as he prepared to play his first game for Central Coast Mariners. The eight-time Olympic gold medallist sprinter is set to make his first appearance when the Mariners take on a local amateur team tomorrow.
Bolt, who played a friendly during a trial with Norwegian side Stromsgodset earlier in the year, admitted he would be nervous as he took another step towards his dream of being a professional footballer.
“There will be nerves,” the 100m world record holder told reporters.
“It’s not like it is a charity game anymore, this is a career that I am pursuing.
“I expect to make mistakes but also to make myself proud and to push myself. I know I am not going to have a perfect game.
“I have been playing on the left wing so far, that is where I have been placed and what I am working with. I am not used to going up and down in speed, back and forth. I think that is the most challenging thing.
“It is all about practising, going through the rounds and pushing myself to try and get used to the system. I have time, so I am going to take my time to learn new ways and continue pushing.”
Bolt said former Reading midfielder Kalifa Cisse, who played one season in the Premier League with the Royals in 2007-08, had been helping him to prepare for Australian football.
“He is really explaining to me, and he has been in the Premier League,” Bolt said of the former Mali international.
“So he has explained the level and he has explained how this league is and how they play here and how he thinks I should play so far.
“We have been talking a lot and he has been explaining to me a few things. So he has been key so far.” (SportsMax)