Superstar sprinter Usain Bolt is adamant he can become a professional footballer despite his trial with an Australian club ending, insisting on Saturday: “I still have it”.
The eight-time Olympic champion’s “indefinite” try-out period with the A-League’s Central Coast Mariners collapsed on Friday after contract talks failed.
The club reportedly offered him only a fraction of the US$2.1 million his managers were seeking, and the outside sponsors needed to make the deal viable could not be found.
“It’s sad that it didn’t work out,” the Jamaican 100m and 200m world record holder told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper at the Derby Day horse races in Melbourne, where he arrived in a suit, sunglasses and with a gold-handled cane.
“But we parted on good terms, and that’s a good thing.
“I had a great experience with them. The guys were great – we just couldn’t work out things with the contract, but hopefully I get another chance with another team.”
Bolt, who retired from athletics last year, has long dreamed of becoming a soccer player and had been training with the Mariners since August, sparking global interest when he scored two goals in a pre-season friendly.
But the staunch Manchester United fan’s abilities were questioned by pundits and some players and he has now had trials with clubs in Germany, South Africa, Norway, and Australia to no avail.
Asked if he would keep pursuing his quest to become a footballer despite another setback, the 32-year-old said: “For sure.
“We’ll see what happens. I think people are still contacting my agent now about opportunities, so we’ll see in which direction it goes.
“For me, I’ve learned that I still have it.
“I figure that I was improving a lot, so as you can see from the first game to the last game, I really improved and did better. I’ve learned that it’s a little bit harder, but it’s all about dedication and work with the team.”
Bolt recently turned down a trial-free contract from cashed-up Maltese champions Valletta to focus on trying to make the grade in Australia.
He has been urged by the head of the Jamaican FA to return home and play for a local club, with the prospect that he could be called up for international duty.