Uproar as Bolt rises from slumber
AUSTRALIA was given a glimpse of what Usain Bolt had to offer on Friday night as the sprint superstar kicked off his hopeful football career with the Central Coast Mariners.
The Mariners are trialling the 32-year-old ahead of their 2018/19 A-League charge after he expressed a desire to chase his lifelong footballing dream.
They kicked off at Central Coast Stadium in front of nearly 10,000 fans against a team of local amateur players in Gosford, Central Coast Select.
The Jamaican star, who still holds the 100m world record of 9.58 seconds, admitted he was struggling with the pace and rhythm of football ahead of the Mariners' preseason and watched on as the action kicked off before getting a run in the 72nd minute.
The Mariners kicked off proceedings in style, booting three goals before the first 20 minutes with Bolt still on the bench. The first came from a sweet touch from Jack Clisby 26 seconds into the match before Mike McGlinchey followed up with a stunner set up by forward Connor Pain. Peter Kekeris put the third on the board after squeezing his way around the goalkeeper in the 14th minute.
Then the real damage started.
Mario Shabow made it 4-0 after Pain trumped the goalkeeper and passed it back to the former Wanderer to send it to the net.
But all eyes were on Bolt as the towering star watched and waited for a chance at hitting the turf. He applauded his teammates' goals and was flanked by security as he strolled along the sideline.
Clisby put himself in hat-trick territory right before halftime, sinking a header in the 41st minute to make it 5-0.
After over an hour watching cameras film the Olympic king warm up and sit idly in his seat, fans were given a glimpse of what Bolt had to offer.
He came on in the 72nd minute, sparking a massive chant of "USAIN BOLT" from the crowd as fireworks were launched from Central Coast Stadium.
A botched first touch cracked a grin from the 32-year-old before he made a solid effort to header a cross into the goal.
The six foot five star showcased some handy footwork on the left flank and had a number of close scoring opportunities unfortunately go wide.
The Mariners eventually closed out a commanding 6-1 victory as a sweat-soaked Bolt walked off the field to speak to the media.
"It was good, the crowd gave me a good ovation and I appreciate that," he said. "I wish I had more touches but I'm not fit yet so I've just got to put in the work and get up to speed. I'm looking forward to a great season."
Bolt said his fitness improved over the last two weeks on the Central Coast but said it could take four to five months before he gets fully fit.
Former Socceroo Mark Bosnich criticised Bolt's skill level after the game, claiming the Mariners would need to be "very patient" with him if they wish to keep him on the bill long-term.
"He needs a lot of work," Bosnich said. "Forget about the fitness, he needs a lot of work on his skill. He mentioned four or five months so the question the club have got to ask themselves is are they going to stand by him? (Coach) Mike Mulvey said they were willing to give him 12 months. But they are going to have to be patient with him, because that was very apparent tonight.
"But if there is anyone who can do it (crack professional football), it's the world's fastest man."
The last time Bolt played in a friendly match, he shared the pitch with Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Christian Vieri.
It was an exhibition match in Paris to mark the 20-year anniversary since France's 1998 World Cup victory.
Bolt was a surprise addition to the All Star XI that took on Zidane, Henry and other members from the victorious Les Bleus squadwho had reunited to celebrate the milestone.
"There will definitely be nerves, it's not like it's a charity game anymore," he said before his blockbuster debut.
"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."