Usain Bolt taking Central Coast Mariners contract talks ‘one step at a time’
Usain Bolt was coy about calling himself a professional footballer following a two-goal performance in his maiden start for Central Coast Mariners on Friday.
The cries for the eight-time Olympic champion sprinter to be offered a contract are growing after the impressive display. And while Bolt is pleased with his improvement in the sport, he refused to label himself a pro just yet.
“Until I sign, I am not saying that. When we will sit down with the club, we will sit down and discuss that if we want to move forward and what I need to do and how we can do it,” Bolt said after the match.
“I’m taking it one step at a time. I’m here to prove to the world that I can be a footballer and I can push myself and see how far I can go. I’ll always give time to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity to prove myself to the world. I’m just excited to take it step by step and move forward.”
The fans at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney’s southwest couldn’t get enough of the superstar in their midst. And after making an exit shortly after the 70-minute mark, Bolt spent the rest of the night signing autographs and posing for photos with delighted supporters.
Bolt’s opening goal has garnered international attention, repaying the Central Coast club for taking the gamble on bringing the celebrity trialist to Australia.
Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp was understandably thrilled with the outcome of the preseason friendly match but claimed it won’t change the process.
“Tonight just puts more attention on the discussion we would already have had. It was always part of the program to have him play this game and we will keep talking the way we have been the whole time,” Mielekamp told ESPN.
“We have genuinely treated Usain like we would have any other trialist. He’s been training hard with us and tonight he showed weaknesses but he also showed his strengths and got two goals so all credit to him, whether it sways the outcome — it’s too early to tell.
“We will now liaise heavily with our sporting director Mike Phelan who is due back in the country shortly.”
Mielekamp was also quick to heap praise on his staff.
“I want to give a huge amount of credit to Mike Mulvey, to Nick Montgomery, Ray Junna and everyone who put in the extra bits to get him to this stage. The people here believed and were open-minded enough to give it a go. Having said that, Usain was the one who had to put it in the back of the net.”
While Mielekamp stressed that the primary focus for the club is getting the main team to Brisbane next weekend for the opening match of the season, he’s also taking time to enjoy the spotlight Bolt has placed on his club.
“Personally, the first time I heard his name mentioned I was pinching myself and thinking ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ and it just keeps going. You’ve got to create moments for history to be made and that’s what has happened — maybe 10 years from now I’ll look back and think I can’t believe that happened but honestly, I can barely believe it now!”