For a soccer player, being quick has its added benefits. Quick acceleration on and off the ball has helped players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Gareth Bale to braze past opposition defenders and score plenty of goals. But what happens when, as a defender, you are up against the fastest human being in history? Yes, the nine-time Olympic gold medalist and the current world record holder in both 100m and 200m, Usain Bolt, has pursued his dream of becoming a professional soccer player after retiring from athletics. Being on an “indefinite training period” with Australian A-league team Central Coast Mariners, Bolt managed to score two goals in his first start for the Mariners in a pre-season friendly.
For more than twelve years, the Jamaican born dominated the world of sprinting. He won an Olympic “triple-double” – clinching the gold medal in the 100 and 200 meters in the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics. In this period, he also managed to set the world record for 100 and 200 meters, completing them in 9.58 and 19.19 seconds, respectively, at Berlin in 2009. He gained the nickname “Lightning Bolt” – partly due to the lightning-esque celebration that became eponymous with him, but most importantly due to his extraordinary achievements as a sprinter.
During his Olympic reign, Bolt had openly stated his desire to play soccer professionally at a later period in his life. A huge Manchester United fan, he said that playing at Old Trafford would be “epic” and a “dream come true”. After retiring from athletics in 2017, at the age of 31, he proceeded forward to train as a soccer player. He trained for short periods of time with Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Mamelodi Sundowns FC in South Africa, and Norwegian club Strømsgodset.
However, it was the Australian A-league side Central Coast Mariners, which decided to give the retired sprinter a chance to play professional soccer. He was taken under the wings of the club in August 2018 on an “indefinite training period”, while clarifying that the agreement “does not guarantee a professional playing contract.” Nonetheless, head coach Mike Mulvey gave Bolt his first start against Macarthur South West United in a pre-season friendly. As the crowd cheered, Bolt scored his first goal by sprinting clear of the last defender, before controlling the ball neatly to finish with a well-struck effort at the near post. On a night to remember, Bolt scored a second goal as well, although this time he simply had to capitalize on a defensive error to slot the ball into an empty net.
Lightning struck twice, as Bolt celebrated the goals with his trademark celebration.
In a post-match interview, Bolt said, “My first start and scoring two goals, it’s a good feeling.” When asked about his decision to choose Mariners as a launch pad for professional soccer, he said, “I’m happy I could come here and show the world I’m improving. I’m keen to be a Mariner, to play my best and get into the team.”
While Bolt’s speed isn’t an issue, his age and lack of playing soccer might come back to haunt him in his quest to, one day, play at Old Trafford. Nonetheless, if the Jamaican has proved one thing to the world, is that he is no ordinary person. With the right determination and training, he is ready to showcase his soccer abilities to the world.