The fastest man on Earth and eight-time Olympic gold medallist holds the world record for the 100m and 200m events. After announcing his retirement from track at the World Championship last year, Usain Bolt has turned his sights to football. A talented football player and long-time fan of Manchester United, we reported that Bolt was also announced as the new ambassador for Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) last year. So, what would the six foot five, 31-year-old athlete be like as a professional striker?
While other track athletes, like American Carlin Isles, have made a successful transition to other sports, the mechanics required for football are very different. Isles was a promising track star who at 22 transitioned to rugby, where he was dubbed “the fastest man in American rugby,” according to CNN. He then did a short stint with the NFL before returning to rugby with the Glasgow Warriors. Linear track sprinting translates well to sports like rugby or American Football where less dexterity is required for players, and there is a greater emphasis on straight line running.
Football on the other hand demands a lot more agility from a player; sprints occur over much shorter distances, and a player is required to accelerate and decelerate repeatedly in many different directions. The Bleacher Report believes that Usain Bolt’s track speed, therefore, may not translate too well to football speed as his training does not provide the necessary agility training. More importantly, Bolt’s inability to move his massive frame quickly enough out of the gate poses a problem for his football career; on the 100m event Bolt normally leaves everyone in the dust 60 to 80 metres into the race, which is about 5 to 6 seconds into the run.
According to a study conducted by the School of Physical Education in Poznan, Poland, of 147 footballers playing in 10 UEFA Europa League matches, researchers found that 90% of sprints performed by the players were shorter than 5 seconds and only 10% were longer than 5 seconds. The agility and acceleration required by a football player over short distances could be a problem for Bolt; his acceleration would not be as effective on the pitch as it is over 100 metres. At 31 years of age, having trained most of his life for track running, a transition to football would be a difficult one.
In June of this year, Usain Bolt will feature in a charity match with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at Old Trafford. Bolt has been courting United’s fiery manager for a while now. Mourinho and Bolt are the perfect match for each other, as both have supreme confidence in their abilities. Ladbrokes recalls how Mourinho was known as the Special One when he first arrived in the Premier League in 2004. This was due to his ability and the famous Mourinho self-belief. While Bolt has yet to train or play with United, he did get a chance with Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund this year. Although Dortmund Coach Peter Stoger said that Bolt is a talented footballer, he also said that the physique and training needed for track is completely different than what is required for football. As a sprinter Bolt is deadly on the track but he would lack the endurance for a full football match. His fast twitch muscles would allow him to be the fastest player on the field, although he would not last long before needing to be substituted.