GOSFORD: Sprint superstar Usain Bolt admitted Tuesday he was struggling with the tempo of professional football but is working hard to raise his fitness levels ahead of his first trial match this week.
The eight-time Olympic champion has been given an opportunity by Australia’s Central Coast Mariners to fulfil his dream of a soccer career and has stepped up his training regime since hooking up with the A-League club last week.
He was put through his paces with the rest of the squad at a more intensive session at the team’s base in the town of Gosford, 75 kilometres (47 miles) north of Sydney, on Tuesday.
After some warming up and a jog around the pitch, he took part in ball drills and while his passing was fine, he was slow to get the hang of the movement required.
The 32-year-old’s lack of football fitness was also evident and he appeared to tire quickly, resting more than his teammates.
Bolt admitted to struggling with the constant stop-start of football, more used to a quick fire sprint on the athletics track before winding down.
“The most challenging thing for me is the stop and go because I’m not used to picking up speed, going back down, then back again,” he said.
The Mariners hope to turn Bolt into A-League material in time for the start of the 2018/19 season in late October, with the club saying he can stay indefinitely to prove his credentials and earn a playing contract.
They have a pre-season friendly on Friday against an amateur side and Bolt is expected to get his first taste of a competitive game, but only as a substitute.
“I imagine he’ll get some minutes on Friday,” said club coach Mike Mulvey, conscious that thousands of fans are set to turn up and with the match due to be broadcast live on pay-tv.
He said the Jamaican was “doing OK”.
“The things we are asking him to do are things that he hasn’t done for quite some years,” he added.