Thursday 01 December 2016, 00:33

Aubameyang challenges Bolt to race

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is aiming to help Gabon win a race with Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco and Mali for a 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ place, and the 27-year-old attacked wants the chance to win an individual one with the fastest man in history. Usain Bolt is set to train with the Borussia Dortmund team Aubameyang spearheads in 2017. And the reigning African Footballer of the Year, who has been clocked doing the 30 metres in 3.7 seconds, has challenged the nine-time Olympic gold-medalist to a one-on-one over that distance.

“I am waiting, man,” said Aubameyang. “I want to do that race, I want to see how I am, because everybody says I am fast but I don't think so. I hope to see you one day. I want to do this challenge.”

After watching Aubameyang’s words, Bolt responded with habitual confidence: “Yeah, he knows I'm going to win.”

Aubameyang impressed at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in 2012 – a Games in which Bolt became the first man to successfully defend both the 100 and 200-metre sprint crowns. The man born in the same French town as Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has scored 21 goals in 52 games for Gabon.

Les Panthères have never qualified for the World Cup, but with Aubameyang in their armband – and Sunderland’s Didier N’Dong and Mario Lemina of Juventus for company – they have arguably never had a better chance. Gabon have drawn 0-0 in both their matches in the final round of the African preliminaries for Russia 2018 – at home to Morocco and away to Mali. That has left them joint-second in Group C, two points behind Côte d'Ivoire.

Bolt is a lifelong football enthusiastic. The 30-year-old follows Manchester United and Real Madrid, recently posted pictures alongside David Beckham, Gianluigi Buffon and Pele on Instagram, was a spectator at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament final in August, and has often flirted with the idea of becoming a professional footballer once he retires from athletics next year.

His native Jamaica failed to qualify for the Hexagonal phase of CONCACAF qualifying for Russia 2018, finishing bottom of a pool also featuring Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti. The Reggae Boyz did nevertheless impress in their only World Cup participation in 1998. Despite a 5-0 loss to Argentina, which was facilitated by Darryl Powell’s dismissal, Jamaica gave eventual bronze-medalists Croatia a scare before going down 3-1 and beat Japan thanks to a Theodore Whitmore double.