Athletics legend Usain Bolt is not guaranteed to play in the A-League, despite signing an agreement with the Central Coast Mariners.
The eight-time Olympic gold medallist has been in discussions with the Mariners in recent weeks as his ambition to make it as a professional footballer gathered pace.
And it was revealed late on Tuesday night (AEST) that Bolt would arrive in NSW later this month to begin his training with Central Coast, having previously spent time at German giants Borussia Dortmund and clubs in Norway and South Africa.
But despite the obvious commercial benefits that will come with the 31-year-old taking to the pitch in a Mariners shirt, Central Coast CEO Shaun Mielekamp said Bolt had received no assurances.
“He has to impress the coach,” he said. “He has to get to a level where the coach is confident that he will play regular football.
“We’ve heard from those clubs [that Bolt has trained with previously].
“We’ve heard that every time he has been training with them, he has been making dramatic improvements.
“We will be looking for dramatic improvements.”
Mielekamp said that Bolt’s agreement with the club was “open-ended and indefinite” and that there would be no rush to use the Jamaican in matches.
“It may take three weeks [for him to play], may take three months, may take six months,” he said.
It may take longer – who knows? This is about training and developing Usain.”
Mielekamp said that Bolt would not live in Sydney and commute to the Central Coast, a significant boost for the local community.
“All our players are expected to be living on the Central Coast … he has agreed to that, which is great,” he said.
He added that Bolt has “bought right into” Central Coast’s philosophy and the club had “been inundated with sponsor calls” on Wednesday following the announcement.
But despite all that, he said the club was not about to cash in on Bolt merchandise.
“It’s important to note that Usain is not a contracted player,” Mielekamp added.
“It’s not like we’ll be launching him out with a number … there won’t be a Bolt shirt out there.”
Mielekamp was also asked if he understood why critics of the club’s Bolt move felt it was a gimmick and a publicity stunt.
“Of course. This is why we are taking it one step at a time,” he said.
‘Anything is possible’
Bolt has already spoken of his excitement at the deal, thanking the club for giving him the chance to show his talent.
“I am very excited about coming to Australia and would like to thank the owner and management of the Central Coast Mariners for giving me this opportunity,” he said.
“I always say that ‘anything is possible, don’t think limits’ and I look forward to the challenge.”