Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Hubert Lawrence | Using speed as a weapon in football

Published:Thursday | September 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence/ Gleaner Writer
Usain Bolt celebrating his gold medal and world record run in the men's 100-metres final at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Usain Bolt (left) challenges an opponent for the ball during an exhibition match between his team, the Central Coast Mariners and the Central Coast Select in Gosford, Australia last Friday.

Some years ago, I dreamt that the day would come when Jamaica would dominate the sprints and win the World Netball title. Those visions weren't pipe dreams. Rather, they were founded in the belief that well organised efforts could bear fruit.

Usain Bolt helped to make one of those dreams come true. Ten years and a month ago, the tall man advanced the work of Herby McKenley, Lennox Miller and Donald Quarrie who had all won silver medals in the 100 metres at the Olympic Games. My dream came true as Bolt won the 100m in world record time - 9.69 seconds. It was stunning proof of how good Jamaicans could be.

He was no flash in the pan either. Five individual Olympic gold medals later and the now retired Bolt is unchallenged as the best sprinter of all time.

Now he has another dream. At 32, he must attack now if he is to make the grade as a professional footballer. It's enough to make people start to dream with him.




Jamaican football needs a turn of speed. We worship Barcelona's Dutch-bred tika-taka and the majesty of King Pele, Gerson, Tostao, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto and crave their style in our Reggae Boys. If Bolt makes the grade, it may prompt the Jamaica fraternity to use speed as a weapon. In the World Cup, Kylian Mbappe terrified opponents with his speed. Though he is no longer the barrier breaker he was in Beijing 10 years ago, Bolt is still probably quicker than the Frenchman. He is, after all, Bolt.

I'd bet my bottom dollar that there are coaches who would love to have an asset like that.

They will probably suggest he works on his heading. At 6 feet 5 inches he could also become a target man for crosses. I can almost see the goals from here.

The value of his speed to a promised new Jamaican playing system isn't the only reason I'd love for Bolt to succeed. We tend to shackle our stars. We almost ushered Merlene Ottey off the track after the 1996 Olympics. Yet, she won a 100 metres bronze that may one day become a silver medal in the 2000 Games. Had she taken our advice, that medal would have been lost.

For similar reasons, Bolt must go his own way. If he feels he can make it in football, and if that is his dream, he owes it to himself to try.

His comments after his first game in Australia reveal that he has carried his winning attitude with him to football. Realistically, he sees the road ahead but he is approaching it with confidence. In addition, he has one thing going for him. That is the ability to assimilate new things quickly.




He can comfort himself in the knowledge that Russian cult hero Sergei Ignashevich played his home World Cup at 39 this summer. In an earlier era, German Lothar Matthaus, World Cup winning 1990 German captain, played strongly until he was 37. That gives Bolt some time to work with.

In athletics, with five world records, six Olympic wins and seven World Championship gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres, he made our dreams of global sprint domination come true time after time after time.

Now he has a new dream. The best bet is to hope he succeeds again. Jamaica only stands to benefit.

- Hubert Lawrence has watched Bolt at track side since 2000.