(CNN) — Usain Bolt had quite a day on Tuesday. The world’s fastest man celebrated his 32nd birthday and took part in his first training session with Australia’s A-League’s Central Coast Mariners.
“I’m not setting myself any targets as to ‘this is what I’m going to do,” Bolt told reporters.
“I’m just going to put in the work. This is my first chance to get the chance to train and get to the level to play as a professional footballer. I’m here to learn and get better. I’m just here to make them proud and make me proud and do my best.”
‘I should be fine’
The eight-time Olympic gold medalist is embarking on a “indefinite training period” with the Central Coast Mariners, who play their season opener on October 21.
“It’s just like track and field — the first day of training is always the roughest one. It’s always going to take time, but I’m ready to work,” added Bolt.
“I just want to get over the first hurdle and get a contract. I want to be treated as one of the boys and not as the the world’s fastest man. I want to be treated as a footballer as that is what I want to be.
“This is just a moment for me to prove people wrong. I don’t care what people say. As long as I get my body in good shape I should be fine.”
‘Innovative and creative’
Bolt’s speed isn’t in question — his sprinting dominance was punctuated with a “triple double” as he clinched golds in the 100 and 200 meters in Beijing, London and Rio. But as to what will be his best position as a footballer, that’s yet to be worked out.
”I started out as a keeper in primary school, and the faster I got the further I moved up the field,” said Bolt. “I’m okay on the wing and I’m good at center forward.”
The A-League club’s decision to take a chance on Bolt has been labeled as a “gimmick” by some critics, but Mariners coach Mike Mulvey insisted it was an “innovative and creative” move.
”We are delighted that Usain has chosen our community to further his footballing career. The highlight is on the Central Coast, and that’s fine with me,” added Mulvey.
Soon after retiring from athletics last year, Bolt trained with Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Mamelodi Sundowns FC in South Africa, and Norwegian club Strømsgodset and before joining the Mariners, he said he’d had been approached by a number of lower league European clubs.
“We got offers from teams in Spain, France, places like that,” said the 32-year-old Jamaican. “For me it would have been harder, I would have to learn a new language.”
The Mariners play in the Sydney suburb of Gosford to a capacity crowd of just over 20,000.
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