JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns came close to responding with a major punch-line on a long-running joke that featured prominently in the early years of billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s era as the Brazilians’ owner.
On Monday, Sundowns trained with eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, who has ambitions of playing football professionally after dominating and breaking records in track and field.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane joked that they could sign Bolt, just as long as he works on his fitness.
Some time ago the joke was on Sundowns during their high-spending spree in Motsepe’s early years, signing almost every player who dominated the headlines.
Rival fans joked that Motsepe, who came into football with no reputation in the sport when he bought the Brazilians in 2004, had heard about a certain Makhaya Ntini, who was doing well after Ntini took his 300th Test wicket in 2007.
The punch-line was that a fuming Motsepe had asked people at the club why they haven’t signed him.
But now that the signing spree isn’t that high under Mosimane, Sundowns can afford to let a gem like Bolt slip through their hands.
“The good thing is that he is a free agent. We can sign him. Any position that he wants, (he can play there). He can play as the top striker because of his height. He can be a goalkeeper or a centreback, wherever he wants. My advice for him on his upcoming trials: get fit,” Mosimane said.
Bolt was drained by the time he finished a training session that was all about him. His body, normally in top shape, showed that he was now a retired athlete.
He promised to be in top shape before he goes on trial in March with German side Borussia Dortmund – who happens to be sponsored by Puma, just like Bolt and Sundowns.
But the 31-year-old insists that his football career isn’t a joke or a PR exercise.
“I have always played football, but cricket was my first love,” Bolt said. “I used to be a goalkeeper actually when I started out. I used to be in goal when I was in primary school. But throughout the years, it’s something that I have enjoyed. I used to play football, but my coach banned me from it. He always told me ‘No football’.
“I would steal some time to play with my friends. I have been doing it for a while now.”
Bolt continued: “I decided that when I retire, and I get a chance to play it, I would give it a try. I am very serious about it. If you’ve been following me, you will know that I am actually going on trial at Borussia Dortmund. I am going to try and get fit for that.
“This (training with Sundowns) showed me that I am unfit for that. Getting in shape for me is easy. I told the coach (Mosimane) that when I get to Jamaica, I will call (my coach) Glen Mills and tell him that I need a month of training before I go on these trials.”
Bolt scored during his training session with the Brazilians. The Jamaican sprinter tapped in a delightful cross from Percy Tau.
He almost finished with a brace, but his almost two-metre frame couldn’t take him high enough to head in a cross from Themba Zwane, but in that miss, he showed good technique and positioning.
“I would like to play on the wing,” Bolt said. “But everyone, the players and coaches that I have talked to, say that they will put you as a striker. That’s what is going to happen hopefully.”