Usain Bolt has vowed to silence his critics after training for A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners for the first time on Tuesday.
The eight-time Olympic gold medallist is on trial at the Mariners and is bidding to earn a professional contract at the club.
Having previously trialled at Borussia Dortmund, Mamelodi Sundowns and Stromsgodset, the Jamaican sprint legend attended his first training session with the Australian club in hope of finally making his dream of transitioning into football a reality.
Bolt took part in a warm-up before undergoing a short passing drill and the 32-year-old, who retired from athletics last year, was pleased with his involvement afterwards.
‘I’m not setting myself any targets,’ said Bolt, who touched down in New South Wales on the weekend. ‘I’m just going to put in the work. I don’t know what to expect so I’m just here to push myself, learn as much as possible. For me it’s a blank slate. I’m here to learn and get better, that’s my focus.’
‘Today was good, we’re taking it a step at a time, working on fitness, level by level, day by day,’ he added. ‘As long as you get fit in football it’s relatively easy. That’s how I look at it, I don’t know yet.
‘I’ve seen as long as you are fit it’s relatively easy with the running. As long as I get my body in shape and get some mileage [into my legs] I should be fine.’
In terms of his ability on the pitch, Bolt believes his experience of top-level sport will allow him to stay calm in front of goal.
Most importantly for Bolt, however, who holds the 100-metre world record at 9.58seconds, is that he wants to be viewed as a footballer – not the world’s fastest man.
‘I’m very cool under pressure, that’s one thing,’ Bolt added. ‘My ability to understand very quickly and learn the game is very good.
‘I’ve expressed that I’m okay on the wing, I’m good at centre forward but at the end of the day he [the coach] will tell me what formation and where I’ll play.
‘I don’t want to be treated as the world’s first man, I want to be treated as a footballer because that’s what I want to be. People will say a lot of things about me, but I’ll prove them wrong.’
Mariners boss Mike Mulvey suggested Bolt might even be ready to make his debut for the club a week Friday when they take on a Central Coast select XI.
‘We don’t have to make a decision tomorrow or the next day,’ Mulvey added. ‘We’re absolutely delighted he has chosen our club, this great community in Central Coast, to further his ambition.
‘If it takes 12 months, I’m happy for him to be here. He has already brought the biggest media throng to this area. The highlight and spotlight is on Central Coast.
‘It’s fantastic and fine with me. Maybe on the 31st, we have a game here, he will be ready for that.’