Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Oral Tracey | Bolt's pipe dream

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Central Coast Mariners' Bolt (center) goes up for a header during an exhibition game with the Central Coast Select team in Gosford, Australia last Friday.

Every person should have the absolute right to pursue his or her dream. Even more so, a man of the status of Usain St Leo Bolt, definitely the greatest sprinter ever and arguably the greatest sportsman of all time should have that freedom.

It is conversely reprehensible though, that some people have the effrontery to suggest or even to imply that Bolt, by virtue of his documented greatness as a sprinter should not be critiqued as the professional footballer he is now purporting to be. I had to ask one such colleague recently, if a fully qualified and world renowned nuclear physicist should all of a sudden without the requisite competence knowledge or experience decide that he's going to start performing heart surgeries, should there not be an outcry about his competence as a surgeon, simply because despite the act that he was so great as a nuclear physicist?

The fact of the matter is that Bolt's exploits on the football pitch ought not to be confused with his greatness as a sprinter. They are two separate endeavours requiring separate analysis. For those of us who still have the appetite for objective analysis devoid of emotions, it is easy to appreciate that Usain Bolt is nowhere near being a good footballer not even by 'Sunday evening scrimmage' standards.

As it is right now, the only reason this issue is even being discussed with any semblance of seriousness is that the party involved is the eight-time Olympic champion and multiple world record holder .

It has nothing to do with his football skills. Having scrutinised almost all of Bolt's attempts at football since it became evident that his intent is serious, it is clear to see that Bolt's technical flaws are countless. His first touch is atrocious. His movement, his ball control, his reading of the game, his anticipation, and most importantly his level of fitness are all but non-existent. It's also instructively ironic that the big man is afraid of the physicality of football.

One should never, ever underestimate the heart of a champion, and a champion Usain Bolt most truly is. But it will take much more than heart, passion and desire to play the level of football that Bolt wants to play, starting from level zero, which is basically where he is. The fundamentals of the game are generally learnt from as early as age six or seven, sometimes earlier.

The earlier these basics are grasped, the better chance the player will have of excelling in football.


Grasping the tactics


The tactical and technical nuances of the game are usually built on the foundations set by these fundamentals. Over time, with practice and experience, these acquired skills become second nature and are thus executed without conscious thought.

Usain Bolt, at 32, is yet to grasp the simple fundamentals of the game. He will therefore not have the time to acquire these skill sets to the extent where he can competently execute them in intense competition.

Another aspect of the struggle facing Bolt is the stark contrast in the dynamics of sprinting compared to football. Athletics is an individual sport that Bolt has been involved in for the majority of his life. Usain Bolt has successfully executed his craft in a lane exclusively assigned to him. He ran his races independently of what his competitors and counterparts did. After operating with ultimate success in that mental and physical space for so long, Bolt must be totally discombobulated and downright confused with the team concept of football, having to share his physical and mental space with 21 other individuals, as well as a referee, all with the unrestricted licence to fight and scrap for a common space.

Importantly also, Bolt was far superior to his peers in athletics. He has now ventured into a space where he is far inferior to those around him. The mountains are high, the terrain is rough, and time is limited.

Bolt's ambition to become a big-time professional footballer is really and truly a joke, but the fact that it is a fantasy of the world's greatest sprint superstar adds a little more visibility to the insanity.

In real terms though, Bolt is enjoying a phase that is common to millions of young boys, girls, men and women around the world. Bolt is simply enjoying a pipe dream.