Bolt gives up football dream, eyes business ventures

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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WITH the idea of becoming a professional footballer appearing a pipe dream, Jamaica's retired track superstar Usain Bolt says he is placing greater emphasis on cultivating business ventures.

During a press conference on Monday, Bolt committed $1 million support to Special Olympics Jamaica ahead of their participation at the World Games in United Arab Emirates in March, only the latest in a string of charity work undertaken by his foundation.

“Sports life is over so I'm moving into different businesses,” the 32-year-old told journalists in reference to life since retiring in 2017.

Inevitably, the 100-metre (9.58 seconds) and 200m (19.19) world record holder was questioned whether he has given up the pursuit of transitioning to a football career — a move he often spoke about, even before his athletics retirement, but one that seemingly went down the drain for good last year.

Though not providing details, he admitted that the process could have been managed differently.

“Yeah, I don't want to say it wasn't dealt with properly, but I think we didn't go about it the way we should [have],” said Bolt, widely accepted as the greatest-ever sprinter.

“We learned a lesson — you live and you learn, but for me it was a good experience. I really enjoyed it, just being in a team. It was much, much different from track and field,” he added.

Bolt had trained with multiple football clubs, with German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund the biggest among them. His greatest opportunity came with Australia's A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners.

But that deal failed, with the multiple Olympic Games champion reportedly turning down the Mariners' contract offer.

The Mariners had announced that, despite having been in discussions with potential commercial partners to help fund the deal, the club and Bolt had agreed one would not be struck.

Financial arrangement aside, there were doubts in some quarters about whether he would have been a success on the field.

All that behind him, the sprint legend, who is involved in the Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records restaurant and sports bar franchise and is said to be investing in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, noted plans are afoot to spread his tentacles even wider.

“I've a lot of things in the pipeline, [but] I'm just not one of the [people] to brag. I've a lot of things, but I won't talk about it because it will come out. I don't want to jinx anything…I'm trying to be a businessman now,” he said.

Bolt, the eight-time Olympics Games champion and winner of 11 IAAF World Championships gold medals, is regarded as a marketing juggernaut.

And endorsement deals with a number of commercial partners have continued even though he no longer competes.

Bolt regularly features on the Forbes Magazine list of 100 richest athletes. The publication, a leading source for business and financial news, estimated that Bolt earned over US $30 million in 2017.

It is not just the jaw-dropping speed he generated from his six-foot five-inch frame during his storied career. From his 'Lightning Bolt' pose, to pre- and post-race gimmicks, his relaxed and charismatic personality endeared him to fans globally.

Bolt told members of the media that at times he does miss life on the track, but that yearning is quickly extinguished when he recalls the long hours of gruelling training required to reach competitive levels.

“Definitely [I miss it]… but I can never miss the training, so that always brings me back to where I am,” he said.

However, he remains open to having an input from the sidelines where he can use his world-renowned brand to market the sport of athletics.

“I've always told the IAAF president [Lord Sebastien Coe] that 'listen, if you want me to be a part I'll help to promote the sport in any way', so I've already put that out there.

“I think I have time just to relax and enjoy life just a little bit, and then in a few years I can decide what [else] I want to do,” Bolt concluded.

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