Bolt admits nerves ahead of launching his football career on Friday
Usain Bolt admits ‘there will be nerves’ as he takes the first step of his fledgling professional football career by running out as a Central Coast Mariners player on Friday.
The fastest man on the planet has developed a reputation as one of sport's coolest customers, and his stylishness and showboating in even the most high-pressure of races has been a trademark of his athletic career.
But the sprint superstar acknowledges things will be different when he takes to the football field in front of more than 10,000 excited fans at Central Coast Stadium.
Bolt is not sure how he will be deployed by head coach Mike Mulvey in his professional debut, but he's ready to play 15-20 minutes and revealed he is training as a left winger.
The 32-year-old is under no illusions, admitting the early stages of his football journey will be a huge challenge, but he is determined to make an impression against a Central Coast select side in Gosford.
“There will be nerves,” said Bolt.
“It’s not like it’s a charity game anymore. This is a career that I’m pursuing.”
“I expect to make mistakes. I also expect I’ll go and make myself proud, and to push myself. I know I’m not going to have the perfect game.
“I can feel the improvement, this is why we’ve started putting me through the full drill.
“Last week I did half the program, now I’m doing the full program with the guys so it shows that I’m getting better, so all I have to do it continue pushing myself.”
Filled with self belief
Although Bolt is aware of the hurdles he must overcome to achieve his dream of becoming a professional football player, he speaks confidently about competing for a place in Mulvey’s line-up in the coming Hyundai A-League campaign.
“The season doesn’t start until the end of October so I have time,” said Bolt.
“It’s just about being focused, taking my time, being smart and pushing myself to get to the level I need to get to be in the starting eleven.
“It’s just time. I don’t know how my body is going to feel. I know when I get on the field, I’m always going to push myself to the limit.”
Life is limitless
Media reports coming from the Mariners medical team suggest Bolt is racking up new records around the Central Coast high performance facility. While he’s totally comfortable in the gym, he reveals the most challenging aspects are the fine details on the field.
“It’s the stop and go. I’m not using to picking up speed, going back down, back and forth,” Bolt said.
“It’s all about practising, going through the round and getting used to the system. I have time so I’m going to take my time, learn the ways and just continue pushing. Nothing frustrates me, it’s just work.”
Words of advice
As Bolt has not undergone the same pre-season schedule as the rest of the squad, he has been placed on a personal program to designed to achieve the stamina required to play 90 minutes.
During his sessions, he has formed a bond with another new Mariner, Kalifa Cisse, who, while rehabbing an injury, is giving Bolt guidance on the tactical side of the professional game.
“I work with Kali, and we talk about defence,” Bolt said.
“Kali has been in the Premier League and he’s really explained the level, he’s explained how this league is, how they play here, how he thinks I should play. He’s explained to me a few things, so he’s been key so far.”
Lifting the group
Another of his teammates, another new Mariners signing Matt Simon, paid tribute to Bolt’s work ethic and his attitude while getting to know the rest of the squad.
“I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about him. He’s a very humble guy and he’s just fitted in really well with the squad,” said Simon.
“The boys have just loved having him around and everyone can share their knowledge with him and I think he’s doing great so far.
“He’s been with the group maybe twice. A lot of what he’s been doing is individual work and individual passing drills. What he’s shown so far is quite good. I’ve enjoyed watching him on the field.
“If anything, him coming in has lifted the group and wanted to make us really try in training.”
A song for the boys
Being a globally recognised superstar does not get you out of embarrassing yourself in front of your teammates, insists Simon. Bolt will need to practise his vocals as well as his ball skills if he is to cut the grade.
“Usually you have to do an initiation song, but you have to be a contracted player to do that, on your first away trip,” added Simon. “If he eventually does sign, I’m sure he’ll be singing.”