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Usain Bolt criticised by NPL hero, despite selling seats

9391722543_e746aaa16f_zUsain Bolt’s move to A-League team, Central Coast Mariners has found itself a number of critics already, but none so far have been as vocal as NPL outfit, Avondale FC’s star striker, Liam Boland.

Speaking to FTBL about the move, Boland said he did not believe Bolt could make the cut in the NPL, let alone A-League. Harsh criticism off the back of a single performance, but then again Bolt did little to suggest otherwise, in a relatively quiet appearance that saw him fail to control the ball properly on his first touch. But Boland even went so far as to suggest that if an NPL player had a performance like that while on trial for an A-League team he may “have got the flick”. To say whether or not this is true would be conjecture, but it can certainly be said that Bolt did not dazzle. As Boland did concede, however, the Mariners’ decision to take Bolt on may have been very smart in terms of business.

Indeed, from a marketing perspective, it has undoubtedly been a good signing by the club, who managed to sell 9,958 seats in their ultra-club friendly match against Central Coast Select last week, something it is arguably unlikely they would have managed before taking on the renowned sprinter and international celebrity. Despite their 6-1 win in that match, though, the Mariners still look to be a long soccer betting option to win the Grand Final. According to bet365, the Mariners are currently the second worst team in the league with odds of 26-1.

Bolt joined the Mariners in August, after leaving behind his illustrious athletics career last year. Speaking at a press conference after last week’s match, the 32-year-old, who came on 71 minutes into the match, said he felt good for his first 15 minutes, but that his fitness began to hold him back for the last five. He pointed out that when he started his career as a sprinter it was impossible to know how “great” he was going to be, and that at this point, the same applies to his soccer career. Instead, he said he would “enjoy the journey” and commit himself to his new role.

But, at this point, it seems extremely unlikely that mere commitment will enable the eight-time Olympic champion to create a career in soccer, and Boland is not alone in his criticism, even if he is the loudest. In conversation with Sky Sports, former Australian international, Robbie Slater suggested that Bolt “needs to learn some more” and simply was not ready for the sport yet, citing his current lack of fitness, vision and soccer smarts. Slater was ultimately fair and accurate in his comments. Although Bolt showed promise in a couple of isolated moments, it quickly became clear that he had a lot to learn about the game, particularly in terms of when and where to make runs.

It is of course not yet clear what Bolt’s soccer career will have in store for him, though few if any believe that it could possibly be as successful as his track and field career, during which he smashed countless records in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m sprints. What is clear from his debut and from Boland and Slater’s comments is that he will continue to be a talking point throughout the season. The Mariners, meanwhile, will likely continue to struggle to win matches, but will probably do so in front of bigger crowds, thanks to the global fanfare surrounding Usain Bolt.

Image credit: Neilhooting

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avatarThis post was written by a Staff Writer for Ultimate A-League

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