Usain Bolt: 'Rashy would beat me over 20 metres!'
Usain Bolt was a guest at Old Trafford for the FA Cup win over Fulham in March, rubbing shoulders with Reds management past and present in Sir Alex Ferguson and Erik Ten Hag.
While in Manchester he also met up with further United royalty in Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt to help promote Soccer Aid 2023 – which is being held at the Theatre of Dreams in June, and in which Bolt will skipper the World XI side... while both Scholes and Butt (plus Gary Neville) will be on the England team sheet.
Here’s what the Jamaican sprint legend had to say about the huge annual fundraising match, which as ever will be staged in aid of UNICEF and its vital charity work...
Usain, You’ll be back at Old Trafford for Soccer Aid. How excited are you?
“I’m very excited. It’s always a pleasure. I have played here once and to come back again and play with different players; I just met Nicky Butt and I’ve never played with him on the pitch, so I’m excited for that. That’s one of the greatest things about Soccer Aid – you never know who is going to be on the pitch with you, so it’s always exciting.”
The 100-metre world-record holder is heading back to his beloved Old Trafford this summer.
As a United fan, what’s it like coming to the stadium, getting ready, getting out the pitch?
“It’s always brilliant. It’s always a wonderful feeling. I’ve watched so many games in the stadium. I’ve watched so many games on TV, so for me it’s a pleasure to be on the pitch with a crowd that’s cheering and energy. It’s just a dream come true.”
What would you say to the fans who always come out in their thousands?
“We are here for a great cause. I have seen the videos first- hand of what people have gone through and also what UNICEF have done to help them, so for me it’s one of the main reasons why I keep coming back and keep asking you guys to pledge as much as you possibly can and come out and support, because the cause is wonderful. They have done so much for so many kids around the world. For me, it’s fun but it’s also the cause that makes it energetic.”
What are your best Soccer Aid memories?
“Just hanging out with everybody. For me, it’s just wonderful. When I met Eric [Cantona] I was just, like... you know what I mean? He’s passed the ball [to me] – when can that ever happen? It’s just different being on the field, meeting all these people and just hanging out. It’s always a pleasure just being here. I have taken so many pictures, videos and just enjoyed the moment.”
Is it a mission to score in front of the Stretford End?
“Yes! This season I have decided that I’m going to really work. For the past couple of years, I’ve never really had a plan and kind of just played football when I go out there. I will work hard, do a lot of running and play a lot of football leading up to the game so I’m much sharper. So that’s my plan.”
You were at the United win over Fulham. How would you sum up the season so far?
“Our season is going wonderfully. I think it’s just so great Ten Hag has come in and [what he has] done for the club. The club has really changed. You can see the energy in the players and the mindset is so different. So I’m very happy with the direction the club is going. I know we are going to win titles. There’s a lot more silverware to come.”
You had the opportunity to speak to Erik at the match. What did you say to him?
“The first thing I said to him was thank you. I was like, 'Thank you,' and I shook his hand. And he was like, 'Thank you for what?' I was like, 'Bringing the glory days back.' For the past couple of years it’s been a tough ask for the players and the team, and there’s been ups and downs. So the fact that now we can see us stabilising out and going forward and going up – it’s brilliant. All I was trying to say was just thank you, I appreciate him, and just to continue what he’s doing.”
You got to see Sir Alex as well...
“Yeah. It’s always great to see Sir Alex. He’s such a fun, relaxed person. We talk, he makes a lot of jokes, he’s just... the energy that he has. I ask him so many questions. Every time I see him I always have so many questions to ask him. He’s just great because he has done so much for this club and the level that he has put here has been wonderful.”
Which players have stood out this season?
“For me, it’s Casemiro and Rashy – he’s really, really done well. De Gea has made a lot of great saves, I have to say. He kept us in a lot of games. So I must say those are the three players that stand out. And Martinez, I think, also has really brought a different energy to the defence.”
Who do you think is the fastest player in the current squad?
“I think Rashy should be the quickest.”
How long would a race have to be before you couldn’t beat Rashy?
“I think Rashy might have me over 20 metres, max maybe 30, because as footballers you train to be really quick, explosive. But not further than that [laughs].”
You know how to be a winner more than anyone. For these last few months of the season, what’s important?
“Just sacrificing and understanding that you have a lot of games, and it’s going to be a lot more pressure. Now’s the time to buckle down. When I was competing, my coach would call me and say, “Listen, these three months are very important. Stay in, go to bed early.” Just sacrifice as much time to focus on my craft. So I think if they really come together as a team and all of them sacrifice the time and try to get as much rest as possible, try to recover from all the games, then we are going to be on the right track.”
SOCCER AID 2023
WHEN? Sunday 11 June 2023
WHEN? Sunday 11 June 2023
WHERE? Old Trafford
WHO? England v World XI (12th encounter, World XI lead 6-5 so far)
WHO IS PLAYING? Confirmed at the time of press – England: Jill Scott (c), Paddy McGuinness, Jermain Defoe, Karen Carney, Gary Cahill, Jack Wilshere, Bugzy Malone, Tom Grennan, Sir Mo Farah, Alex Brooker, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Chunkz, Joel Corry, Eni Aluko, David James, Scarlette Douglas; World XI: Usain Bolt (c), Lee Mack, Steven Bartlett, Kem Cetinay
HOW DO I GET A TICKET? Go to www.socceraid.org.uk where you can find ticket prices and buy tickets (starting from £10 for children), and find all the other details about Soccer Aid 2023