Christine Sinclair, a 6’0″ player, 40-year-old, born in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, and the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of the game (men or women) announced her retirement on Friday morning. Sinclair played a big part of building the CanWNT program and fanbase to what it is today from the humble beginnings. She will be remembered as the Greatest of all Time with the Canadian national team and also as possibly the greatest of all time in the women’s international game.
Christine Sinclair: Her Legacy with the CanWNT
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) October 20, 2023
Christine Sinclair: Her CanWNT Start
Sinclair made her debut with the national senior team in the 2000 Algarve Cup. She scored three goals in that tournament and led the competition in goals scored at only 16 years old. Sinclair would continue her success in the 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, where she scored seven goals in the tournament, tied for the lead with USWNT forward, Tiffeny Milbrett and her fellow teammate and captain at the time, Charmaine Hooper.
Then, in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sinclair stepped up. She scored three goals in the tournament, including scoring a goal in a key 3-1 win over Japan. She also kept Canada in the game in the bronze game against the U.S. in 2003, which Canada ended up losing 3-1. However, that 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where they finished fourth still stands as the best-ever performance by the Canadian national team in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sinclair scored a late goal against Australia, which almost led to Canada making the knockout stage of the World Cup. She also scored two goals in another group stage game, where Canada won 4-0 over Ghana.
2008 Summer Olympics and 2010 Concacaf Women’s World Cup Qualifying
The Canadians advanced to the 2008 Summer Olympics thanks to a Melissa Tancredi goal in the 25-minute in the 2008 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. This is what a then 25-year-old Sinclair said about qualifying for the Olympics (source: Lindsey Craig of CBC Sports):
“It was sweet revenge, absolutely perfect,” Sinclair said. “Just thinking, ‘You’re going to be an Olympian.’ It just tops them all.”
The game was tied 1-1 in the final against the USWNT, where it went to penalties. Sinclair made her penalty, but was unable to secure the trophy as Canada had one more missed penalty than the U.S. in the 2008 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Tournament.
Sinclair scored two goals in the Olympics, one against China, and another one against the USWNT. The Canadians lost against to the U.S., but Sinclair kept her team in the game with a goal in the 30-minute.
In the 2010 Concacaf Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, Canada made history. Canada won the tournament with Sinclair scoring the game-winning goal in the final against Mexico. This was Sinclair’s first and only Concacaf-related trophy. It was also Canada’s second, but the first and only win when the U.S. did participate in the Concacaf competition. USA lost in the semi-finals round against Mexico by a scoreline of 2-1.
Disastrous 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2012 Summer Olympics
READ MORE: John Herdman: His Impact With The CanWNT
The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup to date has been the most disappointing and heart-wrenching tournament for the Canadian team. The national team played three games and lost all of them. John Herdman came into the picture after the competition ended and became the new head coach, Canada would win Gold in the Pan American games a month afterwards.
The 2012 Summer Olympics might have been the most influential tournament for the growth of women’s soccer in this tournament. Yes, Canada won Gold in 2020, but the national team’s attendance skyrocketed after this competition and Sinclair had a big part in that.
Sinclair helped Canada make the semi-finals round of the tournament as Sinclair scored one of two goals to knock-out Great Britain in the quarter-finals. Her team then faced the U.S. in a pivotal semi-final showdown. They lost that game in controversial fashion, but managed to win bronze against France to win their first-ever medal. When I interviewed Eva Havaris a few years ago, she said this:
“Many fans were in the stadium from around the world that just kept coming up to me and kept saying you guys were robbed, you were robbed. They said that Canada should have won because of the call by the referee in the semi-final. So, I think it not only left a huge legacy in Canada but also around the world. It made people aware of our women’s national team players.”
For Sinclair, this would mean national and world-wide recognition. She won the Bobbie Rosenfield Award for the best female athlete in Canada. She was also the first-ever soccer player, man or woman, to win the Lou Marsh Trophy as the top-athlete, with both happening in 2012.
The Modern Era of the CanWNT
From there, the growth of the game continued. Canada hosted the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sinclair’s first goal in this World Cup was scoring a late penalty-winner against China at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.
Attendance also went up, for that opener against China, 53,058 fans attended the game. Other Canadian related games that reached over 50,000 fans included the Round of 16 win over Switzerland (attendance: 53,855) and the 2-1 loss against England (attendance: 54,027). Both games took place at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Even friendlies got big numbers. In the 3-0 loss against the USWNT on June 2, 2013, the game at BMO Field had 22,453 fans. Not big by today’s numbers, but much bigger than what it was before 2012. Just recently, an attendance record in Ontario happened in September 2023 for a women’s or men’s soccer match with an attendance of 29,212. In this match, Canada qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics with a 2-1 win over Jamaica.
Canada would follow that 2012 Summer Olympics performance with another bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Sinclair scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Brazil. This win helped secure Canada’s second-straight bronze medal in Brazil.
2020 Summer Olympics
The 2020 Summer Olympics, which took place in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, might have been the highlight of Sinclair’s career.
She was not the scorer that she was in the 2012 or 2016 Summer Olympics, but she still got the job done. For example, Sinclair was making key defensive plays for her team throughout the tournament. Then, in the final of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sinclair helped Canada earn a penalty for the national team. Jessie Fleming converted the penalty and tied the game. As a result of that play, the game went to penalties, where the Canadians would win their first-ever Gold medal.
Legacy of Christine Sinclair
There are many people to quote on this. However, Diana Matheson, her teammate, and the player who scored the game-winning goal to give Canada their first-ever bronze medal in 2012 said this (source: Sportsnet 590 the FAN):
This is what Janine Beckie said in 2020 (source: The Canadian Press of TSN):
“She doesn’t do anything outrageous,” Canadian forward Beckie said in 2020. “Like she’s not the kind of player that flicks the ball over her head, juggles it five times and hits it upper 90 (top left or right of the goal). There are those kind of players but they are up-and-down players.
It looks like Christine Sinclair’s final games with #CanWNT will be on…
Friday, December 1 in Langford.
Tuesday, December 5 in Vancouver.
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) October 20, 2023
She will also be a player that Canada will miss. However, it also means that there is opportunity for someone else to take captain armband after Sinclair officially retires by the end of this year. She will be part of the team’s roster on October 28 and 31 before likely playing her final two games against Australia on December 1 and 5.
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports, of a Christine Sinclair Headshot, on April 8, 2022.
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