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Usain Bolt offered contract with Australia soccer club, hurdles remain

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Usain Bolt has been offered a contract with his Australian soccer team after playing for the Central Coast Mariners on a tryout deal, but the club said it likely needs more money from an external party to sign Bolt.

The club also said in a press release that while Bolt “made great progression” in his two months of preseason training, it “does not have the luxury” to play him in regular-season league matches.

“I do appreciate how important this story is for the rest of the world, I do appreciate that, but you have a look at our front line today and you wonder whether he could get into any of those positions,” Central Coast coach Mike Mulvey said Sunday, after his club began regular-season play in Australia’s top division without Bolt.

Bolt will not train with the club this week until he signs — if he signs.

Bolt scored his first two goals for the Mariners on Oct. 12 in a friendly against a team that is not in the A-League. Bolt had said the match, his third, would determine his future after he first joined the club on an indefinite trial in hopes of getting a contract.

“After this game is where we can talk because the season’s coming up,” Bolt said after the match.

The eight-time Olympic champion Bolt has long harbored dreams of playing pro soccer.

Since retiring in summer 2017, he has trained alongside club teams in South Africa, Jamaica and Norway, plus had a much-publicized visit with Borussia Dortmund in March. Bolt and Dortmund share an apparel sponsor in Puma.

Bolt said he turned down offers from teams in France and Spain, but not in the top division. He prefers Australia, where he doesn’t have to learn a language. His long-time dream has been to play for Manchester United.

“The [Mariners] coach has explained to me that there won’t be any special treatment,” Bolt said as his Mariners trial began in August. “They will treat me just like a footballer should be treated. … I don’t want to be treated like I’m the world’s fastest man.”

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Kylian Mbappé eyes Olympics

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French World Cup star Kylian Mbappé said he wants to play at the Olympics, according to RMC Sport.

“With France, I still have the European Championship to win. I would also, why not, like to compete in the Olympics,” Mbappé said, according to reported translations.

Mbappé, the second-youngest player at the World Cup, has age working in his favor.

Tokyo Olympic men’s soccer teams are limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997, with three exceptions. Mbappé, who turns 20 on Dec. 20, easily makes the under-23 cutoff, so France would not have to use one of its over-age spots on him.

However, Olympic football qualifying is much more exclusive than for the World Cup. Only four European nations will qualify for Tokyo via the 2019 UEFA U-21 Championship, and France hasn’t put a men’s team into the Olympics since 1996.

Mbappé may need his club team, currently Paris Saint-Germain, to sign off on him playing at the Olympics, which start less than two weeks after the Euro 2020 final. Mbappé potentially playing in both Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics could create another Neymar situation.

France should receive automatic entry into the 2024 Olympics as the host nation. In that case, Mbappé would have to be one of the nation’s over-age exceptions.

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VIDEO: Usain Bolt scores first 2 goals with pro soccer team

Usain Bolt scores his first 2 goals for Central Coast Mariners

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Usain Bolt scored his first two goals in professional soccer for his Australian League team, the Central Coast Mariners, on Friday night.

Bolt made his first start with the club in a preseason friendly against Macarthur South West United, a team that is not in the A-League, the top division in Australia. He played center forward and wore No. 95.

The 32-year-old Jamaican found the net in the 57th and 68th minutes of a 4-0 win. He celebrated the first goal with his “To Di World” pose and the second one with a Fortnite dance.

“My first proper game with the first team. I’m just happy that I got a chance, and I’m proud of myself,” he said on Fox Sports Australia after being subbed out in the 75th minute. “I’m here to prove to the world, as I said, that I can be a footballer.”

Bolt had said the match, his third, would determine his future after he first joined the club on an indefinite trial in hopes of getting a contract.

“After this game is where we can talk because the season’s coming up,” Bolt said Friday, looking to the Oct. 21 regular season opener.

Bolt was asked by a Brazilian reporter if he should now be called “Bolt, the soccer player.”

“Until I sign, I’m not saying that. I guess we’ll sit down, discuss with the club if we want to move forward,” Bolt said. “Until then, I’m still just normal Usain.”

Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said last month that he would wait until January before assessing the progress of Bolt.

“I watch football, so I understand the movement, but the simple things like locking my ankles, getting into space, pulling defenders away … I’ve been improving quickly,” Bolt said Friday. “My position is much better. I’m doing much more in space. I’m running in space much better. I think controlling the ball, seeing the field, having better vision are my two poorest areas, have improved a lot.”

Bolt saw his first action for the Mariners on Aug. 31, playing 20 minutes against a Central Coast selection side. He played the entire second half against the North Shore Mariners on Sept. 19, when he again alternated between left wing and striker.

Mulvey said last month that Bolt was progressing.

“In the initial dispatches talked about he needed time, I said at the time we will give him 12 months if need be,” Mulvey said. “But I think a reasonable assumption would be around about Christmas time, January, we should be really judging on whether he’s really improved or not improved. He’s slowly getting there.”

The eight-time Olympic champion Bolt has long harbored dreams of playing pro soccer.

Since retiring in summer 2017, he has trained alongside club teams in South Africa, Jamaica and Norway, plus had a much-publicized visit with Borussia Dortmund in March. Bolt and Dortmund share an apparel sponsor in Puma.

Bolt said he turned down offers from teams in France and Spain, but not in the top division. He prefers Australia, where he doesn’t have to learn a language. His long-time dream has been to play for Manchester United. Bolt said Friday the only person in top-level world soccer he has talked significantly to about this, his second career, has been Manchester United coach José Mourinho.

“The [Mariners] coach has explained to me that there won’t be any special treatment,” Bolt said as his Mariners trial began in August. “They will treat me just like a footballer should be treated. … I don’t want to be treated like I’m the world’s fastest man.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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