Usain Bolt was wary of calling himself a professional footballer following a two-goal performance in his maiden start for Central Coast Mariners, a 4-0 friendly win over Macarthur South West on Friday.
Calls for the eight-time Olympic champion sprinter to be offered a contract are growing, and while Bolt said he was pleased with his improvement he refused to label himself a pro yet.
“Until I sign, I am not saying that,” he said after the match. “When we will sit down with the club, we will sit down and discuss that if we want to move forward and what I need to do and how we can do it.
“I’m taking it one step at a time. I’m here to prove to the world that I can be a footballer and I can push myself and see how far I can go.
“I’ll always give time to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity to prove myself to the world. I’m just excited to take it step by step and move forward.”
After making an exit from the match shortly after the 70-minute mark, Bolt spent the rest of the night signing autographs and posing for photos with supporters at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney.
His opening goal garnered international attention, repaying the Central Coast club for taking the gamble to bring him to Australia on a trial basis.
Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp was thrilled with the outcome of the friendly match but said it would not change the process.
“Tonight just puts more attention on the discussion we would already have had. It was always part of the programme to have him play this game and we will keep talking the way we have been the whole time,” Mielekamp told ESPN.
“We have genuinely treated Usain like we would have any other triallist. He’s been training hard with us and tonight he showed weaknesses but he also showed his strengths and got two goals, so all credit to him. Whether it sways the outcome, it’s too early to tell.
“We will now liaise heavily with our sporting director Mike Phelan, who is due back in the country shortly.”
Mielekamp was also quick to heap praise on his staff, saying: “I want to give a huge amount of credit to Mike Mulvey, to Nick Montgomery, Ray Junna and everyone who put in the extra bits to get him to this stage.
“The people here believed and were open-minded enough to give it a go. Having said that, Usain was the one who had to put it in the back of the net.”
While Mielekamp stressed that the primary focus was getting the main team to Brisbane for the opening match of the season next weekend, he said he was taking time to enjoy the attention Bolt has focused on his club.
“Personally, the first time I heard his name mentioned I was pinching myself and thinking: ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ and it just keeps going,” he said.
“You’ve got to create moments for history to be made and that’s what has happened — maybe 10 years from now I’ll look back and think I can’t believe that happened, but honestly I can barely believe it now.”