There is absolutely no question that Usain Bolt was an incredible athlete, but let’s be honest; nobody actually believed he could become a professional footballer.
It takes a great deal of effort, commitment and determination for any player to break into the professional ranks of world football, let alone a 32-year-old effectively starting from scratch.
For Bolt, he had his eyes set on the stars, when in reality he simply did not have the ability to match.
That’s why it was little surprise when Bolt announced his retirement from his professional football dream earlier today.
Bolt concluded his foray into the football world with a grand total of a few guest training sessions and an eight-week trial and unsuccessful spell in Australia with Central Coast Mariners.
In his time in with the A-League club – Bolt’s only professional football club – he failed to make a single official appearance. He did feature as a substitute, and scored two goals, in a pre-season friendly, though it was against a local amateur side, Macarthur South West United.
In general, Bolt’s footballing career came and went about as quickly as he completes the 100 metres, but that is also partly down to the athlete himself.
Despite having no playing experience, and not being at the same level as many of his fellow professional footballers, Bolt clearly had high expectations and demands when it came to a contract.
That much is clear in that when Central Coast Mariners offered him a contract in October 2018, they had to ask the Australian FA to help fund it.
That, frankly, showed the inherent flaw in Bolt’s desire to become a professional footballer.
He wanted to be part of the professional football world, but without the hard work required to get there. As a player, he offered little more than any raw, undeveloped academy prospect did, yet clearly had the demands of a proven veteran.
As a sprinter, there is no denying that Bolt was one of the finest ever seen, but as a footballer he is nothing special. If he was truly genuine in his pursuit to becoming a professional footballer, he had to understand that and take the less glamorous route to the top, rather than hoping to rely on a name that meant little in the sport beyond publicity.
Bolt was given the opportunity to become a professional footballer. He was offered a two-year contract by a professional European club in October 2018, but he turned it down.
Why? Because that club was Maltese club Valletta. In Bolt’s mind, that wasn’t high profile enough.
When he first announced back in late 2016 his post-athletics dream of becoming a footballer he spoke of his desire to play for Manchester United.
Now, whether that was just a fan dreaming or genuine delusion over his abilities, I couldn’t say.
What is clear though, is that Bolt’s eyes were fixed firmly on the bright lights of football’s elite. Not in the reality of the situation, having to prove himself in much less illustrious surroundings.
Valletta’s contract offer was genuine, and it shouldn’t have been stuffed at by Bolt, honestly. If he truly wanted to make something of himself as a professional footballer, then he’d have been wise to take up the offer.
The money wouldn’t have been great, but nor should it ever have been. He was an entirely unproven player, and a massive risk for any team to gamble on.
With Valletta, he would be able to develop his basic technique and skill in an almost perfect environment. If he did well at the Malta club, then the world press would jump on it and he’d get the exposure he needs to potentially encourage a bigger club abroad to take the same gamble Valletta offered, while if it all went horribly wrong and he didn’t make the cut it would happen out of the public eye.
Valletta are also domestic champions regularly, and compete in the early preliminary rounds of European football. For a 32-year-old who has never played the game at a competitive standard, that is a remarkable opportunity.
But, as said, Bolt rejected the offer. It wasn’t the big show-stopping contract he’d hope his name alone would attract – an offer that incidentally didn’t come, and never would have.
As Bolt retires from his failed foray into professional football this week, he honestly cannot say it was bad luck or that the odds were against him.
He had the chance, and he was the one who turned it down. The reason he did not get a chance at becoming a professional footballer was simply down to his own unrealistic expectations.