Usain Bolt set to make first start as a professional footballer

Bolt has played 20 minutes of pro football, but only from the bench. (AFP)
Updated 10 October 2018
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Usain Bolt set to make first start as a professional footballer

SYDNEY: Usain Bolt looks set to make his first start as a professional footballer tomorrow, a challenge he said could determine if he has a future in football.
Bolt said the coach of his Central Coast Mariners, Mike Mulvey, had indicated he would be in the starting line-up in a friendly against Macarthur South West United in Sydney.
“For me, that’s always a good step, when the coach is satisfied with your fitness to put you in the starting line up — that’s always a big step,” Bolt said.
“I am just happy to get the chance and go out there and start, and do my best because that is the key thing.”
The eight-time Olympic champion made his footballing debut in late August in a 20-minute cameo as a substitute on the left wing, nearly scoring but tiring quickly — the fitness needed for football being different to that of out-and-out sprinting.
Bolt said he had improved his fitness since, and expected to spend more time up front.
“My movement and my touch is much better now,” he said.
“I’ve learnt how to set my body and where to place the ball.”
The A-League has been struggling in recent years with fewer fans and dwindling TV ratings, with football chiefs hoping the arrival of big names like Bolt will boost local interest.
The 100m world record holder said he expected some nerves when out on the pitch, but was excited by the opportunity to prove his worth as a footballer.
“This will be a big game. I think it will determine if the club makes up its mind on what to do with my career. So for me it’s a very important game,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to proving myself.”


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 54 min 12 sec ago
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: getting them to the 2022 World Cup.
The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Abu Dhabi. While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990.
“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.
“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 


Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017 after contractual negotiations broke down. That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, not least with Saudi Arabia, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead.
“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said.
While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom it is his time as the Netherland coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010.
So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race?
“One of the reasons is the feeling — I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said.
“We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.
“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (whom he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”
Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be a difficult one. The fabled “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years work will likely depend on a new generation.
“I heard there were some young talents so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said.
“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”