Image: Oct 22, 2017; Austin, TX, USA; Olympic champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica takes a hot lap with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (44) of Great Britain before the start of the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
By Alan Baldwin
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Usain Bolt says he is serious about starting up a soccer career now he has retired from sprinting — and believes he could even be good enough to play for Jamaica.
The 31-year-old eight-time Olympic gold medallist, currently recovering from a hamstring injury, accepted there might be some scepticism but said it had always been his boyhood dream.
“For me it’s a personal goal. I don’t care what people really think about it. I’m not going to lie to myself. I’m not going to be stupid,” the Jamaican told reporters at the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix.
He was speaking before world champion Lewis Hamilton drove him around the Circuit of the Americas in a Mercedes AMG sportscar, sending the car sliding into corners and ending with tyre-smoking spins.
“If I feel I can’t do it, I’m going to say ‘you know what, forget this’. I’m not trying to embarrass myself. But if I go out there and feel I can do this then I will give it a try. It’s a dream and another chapter of my life,” said Bolt.
“If you have a dream that you always wanted to do, why not try and see where it will go.”
The world’s fastest man has been sponsored by Puma since he was 15 and the German sportswear company has a stake in Borussia Dortmund.
Bolt, who retired from athletics after August’s world championships in London, has been invited to spend a week training with the Bundesliga club and he plans to take it up.
“It’s just my hamstring is keeping me back right now. In two weeks I can start training again and get back into some shape. Then I can really explore the situation,” he said.
“They say the invitation is always open so it’s all about me getting over my injury and then getting into shape. Then I can do the trials and see what level I’m at.”
A keen Manchester United fan, Bolt doubted manager Jose Mourinho would be on the phone any time soon but said he had spoken to the club’s former manager Alex Ferguson about his dream.
“He said ‘Alright, get into shape and I’ll see where that goes’,” said the sprinter.
Jamaica, who failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals, are currently 59th in the world rankings, leaving Bolt to also muse: “I think I can make the Jamaica team easily. I wouldn’t say they are that good at this point.”
Bolt, who suffered the injury in his final race, the world championships 4 x 100 metres relay final, again ruled out any athletics comeback, saying he missed the laughs and banter but not the training and he was intending to start a family.
“I’m waiting to see if my football career will go anywhere but I definitely want to work with the IAAF in ways to promote the sport and help keep it on the level on which I left it,” he added. “Being a coach? No. Definitely not.”
Asked about the current state of athletics and doping scandals that have seen Russian athletes barred from competition, the Jamaican felt the sport was climbing back out of the gutter.
“You have to get to the worst to start rebuilding and I think the Russia situation was the worst we could get,” he said.
“Now it’s all about rebuilding and making people trust the sport again. This year was the first that we made a step in the right direction so, hopefully, we continue.
“If you’re in the gutter and working your way up, it’s going to take time. That’s what we need. Just time for people to really start trusting the sport again.”
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(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ian Chadband)
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