'Circus freak show': A-League under fire over Usain Bolt 'gimmick'

A leading Aussie football commentator says the A-League’s pursuit of Usain Bolt could ‘reduce the league to a sideshow’.

Bolt, 31, retired from sprinting last year but has long harboured ambitions of a career in football.

Australian football agent Tony Rallis says an “in-principle” deal has been reached to bring the eight-time Olympic gold medallist to the Central Coast Mariners for a six-week trial.

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“We’ve got a club that’s willing to allow him to trial and offer him the contract,” Rallis told AAP.

“We’ve got an athlete that’s prepared to meet the trial criteria and benchmarks.

“We just need some funding from the FFA to top it up.”

Fifa 98’s Usain Bolt is seen during an exhibition football match between France’s 1998 World Cup’s French football national team and FIFA 98 composed with former international players, to mark the 20th anniversary of France’s 1998 World Cup victory, on June 12, 2018 at the U Arena in Nanterre, near Paris. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The Mariners, who finished bottom of the table last season, confirmed they were “committed to discussions” with Bolt and his management team.

“It is crucial to note that all discussions between the Central Coast Mariners and Bolt require an initial six-week-trial period and no contract is guaranteed,” a club statement read.

Many fans were laughing at the ‘publicity stunt’ on Tuesday, but renown Australian commentator Simon Hill didn’t see the funny side.

“If it’s a marketing stunt then great, it’s got people talking about the A-League, I don’t mind that,” Hill told SEN Breakfast.

“If they’re being serious, no. Please. The guy, as brilliant an athlete as he was and is, he isn’t a professional footballer.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 17: Usain Bolt of Jamaica reacts after competing in the Men’s 200m Semifinals on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“He might be quite handy, I don’t know, but for me, if we are going to go down that road, we are reducing the A-League to a sideshow, a circus freak show, a gimmick.

“We don’t need it. The league is a serious competition.

“If we are going to bring in big stars, then let’s get proper marquee players, for which you have to pay.”





FFA has a pot of $3 million, provided by Fox Sports, to spend on marquee players for the upcoming season.

FFA is believed to be deep in talks with former Japanese international Keisuke Honda, who is interested in joining Melbourne Victory and would command the majority of the fund if he reaches an agreement with the A-League champions.

Conceivably, the rest could be allocated to Bolt in the event of a successful trial in Gosford.

Bolt played in a charity match for Unicef last month in London, captaining a “Soccer Aid World XI” team that featured Robbie Williams, Kevin Pietersen and Yaya Toure.

The team was co-coached by Eric Cantona and Harry Redknapp, who previously served as an ‘advisor’ to the Mariners in 2016.

Bolt reportedly had a goal chalked off for offside and hit the crossbar but scored in a penalty shootout, having warmed up for the match with a 20-minute spell for Norweigian side Stromsgodset in a friendly against Norway’s under-19s.

He has previously trained with clubs including Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and also played a practice match with Melbourne Heart’s youth team during a 2012 visit to Australia.

with AAP