Bolt battle: Australia still has the inside running
SPRINT star Usain Bolt is determined to legitimately earn a spot in the A-League by training for six weeks with no guarantee of a contract, his friend John Steffensen has revealed.
The news comes as international soccer clubs are said to be lining up to poach the Olympic champion from the Central Coast Mariners. Clubs from Turkey, Hungary and the US have reportedly approached Bolt after his links to the Mariners emerged.
Australian Steffensen, himself an Olympic medallist, has been a close friend to Bolt for years and is part of his off-field team as the Jamaican star embarks on his bid to play professional soccer.
Many have suggested the Mariners must have given Bolt assurances he'd make the cut, but Steffensen said the sprinter does not want to disrespect the sport.
"This is not a publicity stunt from Usain," Steffensen told The Daily Telegraph. "He genuinely has a dream to play football, but he wants to earn it the right way.
"He wants to respect the sport of football, and all of the players past and present. He wants to play in Australia, he loves this country, but he wants to do it on merit."
Steffensen said Bolt would use the six weeks to "work hard, practise the skills of football".
"If he happens to make the A-League that's great, and if he doesn't, what's the problem? I'm not seeing what the issue is."
The publicity garnered by the Mariners could backfire for the club, however. The international clubs pursuing Bolt are apparently willing to offer a contract without trialling because of the money and buzz he would attract.
Steffensen said the sprint king's change of sport was not about the money.
"He has achieved everything in athletics, he is an immortal in athletics, and now he is pursuing this dream," he said. "We all know the commercial upside that his immense brand brings, but that's not what this is about for Usain."
Some have panned the venture as delusional, citing footage of Bolt training with European clubs.
But Steffensen said judging his football ability from a few seconds of video clips from trials he's had in Germany is premature.
"That was all about learning, and he wants to work hard and to learn and see if he can be good enough," Steffensen said.