Bolt’s bid for pro contract in Australia ends without a deal

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GOSFORD, Australia (AP) Usain Bolt’s bid to become a professional soccer player in Australia has ended with the Olympic sprinting great failing to agree on a contract with the Central Coast Mariners.

The Mariners announced Friday that Bolt’s indefinite training period with the club “has drawn to an end, effective immediately.”

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Central Coast reportedly offered Bolt a contract worth 150,000 Australian dollars ($110,000) and hoped to get a third-party endorsement to increase the package into the millions, but management for the eight-time Olympic gold medalist rejected the offer.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Usain as he pursued his desire to become a professional football player,” said Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth. “This has been a mutually beneficial partnership that brought an increased level of excitement and attention to both the Mariners and the A-League.”

Bolt, who has never played soccer at an elite level, practiced with the Mariners squad in September and October but only played in some low-level, non-league matches.

“I would like to thank the Central Coast Mariners’ owners, management, staff, players and fans for making me feel so welcome during my time there,” Bolt said in a statement released by the club. “I wish the club success for the season ahead.”

Bolt scored two goals in a trial game but wasn’t included in the squad for the A-League season opener on Oct. 21, when Central Coast had a 1-1 draw in Brisbane. Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said after that match that he wasn’t aware the club had made an offer to Bolt.

The 32-year-old Bolt retired from competitive track and field last year and has since explored options in Germany, South Africa, Norway, and Australia to gain a professional soccer contract.

His first game for the Mariners, an exhibition against a selection of amateur players, attracted a big crowd, and Bolt’s bid to join the A-League has generated plenty of headlines. But critics questioned Bolt’s ability to play at an elite level and others wrote it off a publicity stunt.