You did get a fair chance Bolt, you were just ‘fairly’ awful at football

By August 13, 2020
Usain Bolt celebrates scoring a goal during a trial game with Australian A-League outfit, the Central Coast Mariners. Usain Bolt celebrates scoring a goal during a trial game with Australian A-League outfit, the Central Coast Mariners.

Usain Bolt earned our undying admiration for his marvellous exploits on the track, but it was always clear, to be honest, that fumbling, bumbling, tumbling escapes on the football pitch, would never amount to anything more than a glorified publicity stunt.

When fabled American sportscaster Charley Steiner quoted the famous line, uttered by Clint Eastwood’s iconic character Dirty Harry, ‘Sometimes a man’s got to know his limitations,’ he referred to another track and field legend, Carl Lewis, butchering the United States national anthem with all the ruthless efficacy of Sweeney Todd. 

The laborious months of Bolt’s campaign to become a professional footballer may not have caused us to splutter uncontrollably with ceaseless bouts of irrepressible laughter, as Lewis’ spectacular failure did, mind you, what we saw were Bolt’s best parts, but the sentiment should be the same, everyone has limits.

Shockingly, however, it seems the lesson has been lost on the decorated runner and his recent comments about not being given a fair chance to play football, tell us as much.

Based on what I saw, and if there is better footage, I am eager to see it, it’s hard to justify the sprinter being given a trial anywhere at all where serious football is played.

On one level, it’s completely understandable that unshakable self-belief is a key part of the mindset of any great athlete. 

When Michael Jordan tossed aside the basketball and stood, bat in hand, in front of the mirror, he saw Jackie Robinson. When Carl Lewis decided to trade the relay baton for a mic, he likely glanced over to see Lionel Richie looking back, before committing an unforgiving and merciless verbal assault.  The shimmering reflection Bolt cast after putting down his spikes and picking up cleats was, Wayne Rooney, a player whom he astonishingly believed was at the same talent level.

What is less understandable, however, is that three years after retirement and at least two after the professional football fiasco, the world record holder believes that his lack of success was down to a lack of opportunity.  It’s time to be honest, Usain, it was down to a glaring and obvious lack of ability.

Football is a very easy sport to watch, easy to love, easy to have strong opinions about.  Some of us even believe it easy to play in our weekly treks to weekend scrimmage games. 

The images we see when we stand proudly in front of the mirror, before heading to our own local battlefields are varied and endless.  Many of us are Lionel Messi’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s, Jamie Vardy’s, Karim Benzema’s, and even Zinedine Zidane’s. If you really think about it though, playing well, let alone playing well enough to be a professional at the highest level, is another thing entirely.

With the rare exception, the very best exponents of the beautiful game spend the tender years of their lives ceaselessly honing their craft, and even then, on many occasions, find themselves well short of making the professional-grade. 

How likely was it that Bolt, then a 31-year-old athlete, who never even played the highest level of high school or primary school football, would decide to take up the sport professionally after a few scrimmage games and make the grade?  His only qualifier for getting a trial was that he held track and field sprint records. Fantastic records, mind you, but that is a remarkably clear case of comparing apples to oranges. 

Come to think of it, the situation sounds rather ridiculous when you spell it out loud, doesn’t it?

Well lest anyone out there harbour any illusions, it only sounds that way because the whole thing was.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as he struggled to

 

 

In many respects Bolt and another track and field legend

Bolt trippinCharkg over a football not as funny but breathtaking lack of aweness on limitations certainly in the same ballpark is just as not given chance ridiculous.  Football for year of training Bolt decided to pick it up as a professional at 31 declaring better than Wayne Rooney

Beyond this Bolt now claims not given chance

Kwesi Mugisa

Kwesi has been a sports journalist with more than 10-years’ experience in the field. First as a Sports Reporter with The Gleaner in the early 2000s before he made the almost natural transition to becoming an editor. Since then he has led the revamp of The Star’s sports offering, making it a more engaging and forward-thinking component of the most popular tabloid newspaper in the Caribbean.

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