After calling time on his illustrious athletics career in 2017, Usain Bolt – the fastest human being in history – decided to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Aged 30, Bolt had just about enough time on his side to give it a go and was confident in his own abilities to play in a top league.
“It’s a personal goal, I don’t care what people really think about it,” the Jamaican superstar told reporters. “It’s a dream, it’s another chapter of my life that I really want to do. If you have a dream or something you really want to do, you want try to see where it could go.”
He’d also trained with South African side Mamelodi Sundowns two months earlier.
Bolt gave himself a “seven out of 10” following an open training session with Dortmund, although the German club promised they’d give the Olympic icon a “realistic assessment” of his chances of playing professionally – and they did just that.
“If he wants to make at the highest level, he still has a lot of work to do,” coach Peter Stoger admitted. “At his age, there is not that much room for development.”
Alas, Bolt was not offered a professional contract by Dortmund.
Bolt then joined Central Coast Mariners
Undeterred, he ended up joining Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners for an “indefinite training period” in August 2018 following an appearing for Norwegian outfit Stromsgodset in a friendly against Norway’s Under-19s.
During his eight-week trial Down Under, Bolt appeared in a pre-season friendly against Macarthur South West United and scored two goals to boost his chances of turning pro.
Wearing the No. 95 shirt – a reference to his record-breaking time over 100m – Bolt played upfront and caused the opposition defence all sorts of problems when he was given space to stretch his long legs.
“I think I’ve improved in every area,” Bolt told reporters, per The Guardian, after the match. “I think my touch is that little bit better; my vision needs to improve a little bit more. I think my running off the ball is where I’ve improved most.”
Bolt, who turned down a two-year deal to join Maltese champions Valletta, was reportedly offered a contract by Central Coast Mariners after impressing during his trial period.
His agent, Ricky Simms, was quoted as saying by The Mirror in October 2018: “In response to the media stories, yes, Usain has been offered a contract. I do not want to make any further comment at this stage.”
Curiously, though, Mariners managers Mike Mulvey insisted that he was unaware of the offer.
Bolt ‘has first touch like a trampoline’ – Keogh
Around the same time, former Republic of Ireland international Andy Keogh caused a stir with a brutal assessment of Bolt’s footballing abilities, saying the eight-time Olympic champion had a first touch “like a trampoline”.
“He’s not going to be able to make it,” Perth Glory forward Keogh told Off the Ball. “It’s nice to have the attention on the A-League but him playing here, that’s not for me.
“He’s shown a bit of potential but it’s a little bit of a kick in the teeth to the professionals that are in the league.”
Keogh added that a potential professional contract for Bolt was “fine from a marketing point of view” but was “farcical” from a football perspective.
One month later, Bolt ended up leaving the Australian club, who couldn’t find a way to pay the star’s reported $3 million wage demands. A third party was required to finance a deal and talks subsequently broke down.
“I would like to thank the Central Coast Mariners owners, management, staff, players and fans for making me feel so welcome during my time there,” Bolt said after his departure was confirmed.
The club’s owner, Mike Charlesworth, added: “He integrated very well into the team and made great strides as a footballer.”
Bolt eventually gave up on football dream
Two months on, in January 2019, Bolt announced to the world that he was no longer pursuing his dream of becoming a footballer.
“It was fun while it lasted,” he said. “I don’t want to say it wasn’t dealt with properly, but I think we went about it not the way we should.
“You live and you learn. It was a good experience – I really enjoyed just being in a team.”
He added: “I’m now moving into different businesses, I have a lot of things in the pipeline, so as I say, I’m just dabbling in everything and trying to be a businessman now.”
Although Bolt’s dream of turning pro was left in tatters, his love for football remained intact.
He appeared in Soccer Aid in 2019 of 2021, capitalising on a mistake by Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher to score for the Rest of the World against England in the 2019 edition.
And he remains a huge fan of Man Utd, posting regular updates about the Red Devils on Twitter.