As Christine Sinclair recently played in her final match for Canada, we take a look back at her iconic career and what she has meant to her country.
The game, a specially scheduled friendly against the Australian national team, was a celebratory affair, and Canada Soccer pulled out all of the stops to properly honor the greatest footballer it has ever produced. Not to be lost in the shuffle were Sophie Schmidt and Erin McLeod, who were also honored for their illustrious careers in the red and white of Canada.
But this is a story about Sincy. Over her 23-year career with Canada, she has amassed an astonishing 190 goals in 331 appearances, the former mark the most all time, and the latter the second-most, both regardless of gender.
I was fortunate enough to attend Sinclair’s final game in a Canada shirt, and while I already understood how much she meant to the Canadian public on an intellectual level, I didn’t fully comprehend it on an emotional level until I took in the scene at this match.
The immense love, support, and admiration for Sinclair’s contribution to the Canadian program was physically palpable in the stadium. Forty-eight thousand adoring fans crammed into Christine Sinclair Place (formally BC Place, but renamed for this event) to honor her footballing ability, but also her outspoken nature to stand up for equality in sport.
Sinclair entered the Canadian consciousness back in 2000, a time when women’s sport was greatly overlooked in the country, and went on to be the single greatest catalyst for growth that soccer in Canada could have asked for. This impact was no clearer than during the pre-game ceremony.
While Sinclair was being gifted with a jersey, a piece of art, and an opportunity to take photos with her family, I took a moment to look at the crowd and take in what people were feeling. Of course, every person was standing and applauding, but the overwhelming number of people shedding tears seemed almost incomprehensible.
While Canada is historically known for its love of hockey, it wouldn’t be categorically incorrect to claim that Sinclair is the most beloved athlete in Canadian history. In a way, that perfectly encapsulates how impactful she has been to the game in Canada. The nation’s favorite child is a women’s footballer, not a hockey player, track star, or musician. Tell that to the Ronaldo fanboys who took over the comment section of Nike’s commemorative Instagram post celebrating Sinclair.
Ultimately, it is not specifically Sinclair’s achievements on the field that made Canada fall in love with her. It was her quiet confidence, commitment to teamwork and drive to make the sport a better place for everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, religion, or ethnicity.
Yet, her accomplishments should not be discounted, as she did a lot of winning too. A gold medal in the Olympics, Pan American Games, and a CONCACAF Women’s Championship title are all on her mantle, not to mention the countless Golden Boot trophies that she has won throughout her 23 years of international tournaments.
Christine Sinclair will forever be one of Canada’s greatest icons. Schools and stadiums will be named after her, people will tell their children about her, and most importantly, women’s sports will continue to grow in Canada, largely due to the foundational work that she so tirelessly put in.
Congratulations on 23 incredible years. They will always be celebrated.