Bolt’s bid for pro contract in Australia ends without a deal
GOSFORD, Australia (AP) — Usain Bolt’s bid to become a professional soccer player in Australia has ended with the Olympic sprinting great failing to agree on a contract with the Central Coast Mariners.
The Mariners announced Friday that Bolt’s indefinite training period with the club “has drawn to an end, effective immediately.”
Central Coast reportedly offered Bolt a contract worth 150,000 Australian dollars ($110,000) and hoped to get a third-party endorsement to increase the salary package into the millions, but management for the eight-time Olympic gold medalist rejected the offer.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Usain as he pursued his desire to become a professional football player,” Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth said in a statement. “This has been a mutually beneficial partnership that brought an increased level of excitement and attention to both the Mariners and the A-League.”
Bolt, who has never played soccer at an elite level, practiced with the Mariners squad in September and October but only played in some low-level, non-league matches. He stopped practicing with the club’s top team when contract negotiations intensified immediately before the A-League season started.
“I would like to thank the Central Coast Mariners’ owners, management, staff, players and fans for making me feel so welcome during my time there,” Bolt said in a statement released by the club. “I wish the club success for the season ahead.”
Bolt scored two goals in a trial game but wasn’t included in the squad for the A-League season opener on Oct. 21, when Central Coast had a 1-1 draw in Brisbane. Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said after that match that he wasn’t aware the club had made an offer to Bolt.
The 32-year-old Bolt retired from competitive track and field last year and has since explored options in Germany, South Africa, Norway, and Australia to gain a professional soccer contract.
His first game for the Mariners, an exhibition against a selection of amateur players, attracted a much larger than average crowd, and Bolt’s bid to join the A-League has generated plenty of headlines. But critics questioned Bolt’s ability to play at an elite level and others wrote it off a publicity stunt.