In the wake of the club’s announcement that Usain Bolt will commence an indefinite training period with the Central Coast Mariners, Club CEO Shaun Mielekamp fronted the media.
With the eyes of the world on the Central Coast, following the next step in Usain Bolt’s journey to become a professional footballer – Mielekamp addressed the media at the Central Coast Mariners Centre of Excellence.
Let’s take a look at some of the key talking points, questions and quotes from today’s press conference.
Mielekamp’s Opening Statement
‘’Our goal at the Central Coast Mariners is to be the most innovative, entertaining and community minded sports brand in Australia. This is our competitive edge. Having Usain Bolt come to the club to train and hopefully develop into a professional football player is perfectly aligned to the club’s philosophy. It’s important though that we don’t get too caught up in the hype and possibilities. But the reality is, Usain Bolt has placed his faith in the Central Coast Mariners to accelerate his football journey. This must be tempered with the reality that there’s a job to do for us. There’s a lot of hard work ahead and we’re committed to building a team that will win matches and instil belief in our community. Hopefully Usain can help us on this mission.
“We welcome Usain with open arms and will always remain grounded and focused on the job at hand. I also look forward to seeing the Central Coast catch the attention of sport lovers around the world. Sports lovers who will join us and dare to dream. Sports lovers who truly believe that only those who are brave enough to try and do the impossible are capable of achieving anything.
“So, it’s important to note, that Usain Bolt will come to the Central Coast Mariners to train for an indefinite period. His training program will be structured to see if he can reach a level of playing that earns him a professional contract. This may take 3 weeks, 3 months, 6 months. Or it may take longer. Who knows. Only time will tell. But it’s exciting to see what this will do for our region,” Mielekamp said
What does Usain Bolt need to do, to earn a professional contract?
‘’He has to impress the coach. He has to get to a level where the coach is confident he will play regular football. Once that decision is reached, then he will be offered a playing contract.
‘’Again, this is where it changed from being a trial to being open ended and indefinite. This is about training and developing Usain, so we’re all in this together.”
What is the feedback from Football Federation Australia?
‘’They (FFA) have been very supportive with the program that we have put in place. What we’ve been looking to do and how we’ve been going through the approach. They’re mindful as well of being respectful to the A-League, the Central Coast Mariners and the sport. They’re as excited as anyone else at the potential that is here. They’ve said that they will get behind this if he’s at the level, they’ve put their trust in us to take on the journey."
What do the Central Coast Mariners players think of this exciting news?
‘’The team has been very good all along the way. There was another briefing last night and again this morning. But the job for them is to be focused on the team and for many of them it’s about another trialist coming on. There will be a lot of cameras around for that, but the importance for us is to make sure this is treated just like anyone else in the same aspects.’’
Will Usain Bolt live on the Central Coast?
“It’s same rule for all of our players. They are expected to be living on the Central Coast. It’s a big part of our club and we spoke to him early about living and residing here on the Central Coast and he’s agreed to that which is great.’’
Will Usain Bolt’s arrival help lure other players to the region?
‘’One thing that’s really exciting for us and we are very aware of is what may the ‘Bolt effect’ look like for us in the future? This is about the long-term benefits for the club and the long-term benefits for the region. If there are more players around the world that know our brand, know our club and know our region then that can only be a positive.’’
How will Usain Bolt fit in to the ‘Community Club’?
‘’The one driving element through this whole thing is Usain’s own personal passion, his own personal belief and personal desire. We’ve spoken to him about our club and what our beliefs are. We spoke to him about going down to the local school and doing appearances and those sorts of things and he has bought right into that which has been fantastic.”
"I’d like to put that to bed. That’s not something that’s on the radar. It’s not about having a gimmick. It’s important to note that Usain isn’t a contracted player, so it’s not like we’ll be launching him out with a number or anything just yet, we’ll present him with his football boots first.’’
How long will Usain Bolt be on the Central Coast?
"The first question will be around his physical abilities and capabilities. The High-Performance Department will be getting their hands on him first and that will be the first question, how many minutes…what is he physically capable of? That question will start to unfold. Could he be playing in 3 weeks, 6 months…so until he’s here training with the experts we won’t really know that.’’
What do you say to the critics?
‘You know we are a small club, you know that we need to grow and if this is one of the opportunities for the Central Coast Mariners to significantly grow for the long term then that’s an opportunity that I’m sure no one can deny us. We just spoke about the potential of the up-shot in the stadium and we’ve been inundated with sponsor calls this morning which has been exciting and for us, that long term effect is something that we need to be mindful of. How can we use this moment to improve the club for the long term?”
What position will Usain Bolt play?
‘’That’s probably a question for the coach in future weeks as he gets to the ground and puts the boots on. Everyone knows he’s fast, everyone knows he’s big so there’s some obvious positions that you would think of, but yeah l will leave that to the football department to guide us on that one,” Mielekamp said