Christine Sinclair’s Canadian Career is Over, but Her Impact Will Be Felt for Generations

Christine Sinclair's Canadian Career is Over

Christine Sinclair’s Canadian Career is Over, he all-time leading international scorer who wins his farewell game against Australia in Vancouver.

Christine Sinclair’s Canadian Career is Over

Christine Sinclair's Canadian Career is OverChristine Sinclair, back center, of Canada, celebrates with teammates after Quinn scored the team’s opening goal against Australia on Tuesday in Vancouver. Sinclair will retire from the national team after this game.

Before Christine Sinclair’s final game for Canada on Tuesday night, 190 youth soccer players filed onto the pitch in long lines, one for each of her 190 international goals. They wore red jerseys like hers, some down to their knees, 190 tiny Christine Sinclairs.

Their idol stood nearby, in the center of the pitch, looking up at the huge screen at Vancouver’s BC Place, which had been dubbed Christine Sinclair Place for the night for good measure.

A commemorative film featured blurry footage from her national team debut in 2000. She was 16 years old, not much older than the crowd of admiring girls in front of her. Seeing so many copies of her younger self brought tears to her eyes.

She is now 40 years old, and her final appearance, a friendly versus Australia not far from her hometown of Burnaby, British Columbia, was in high definition. Canada won 1-0, and the crowd of 48,112 — the highest for a women’s football friendly in Canadian history — witnessed it with the clarity that only time can provide.

It’s difficult to sum up such a vast career. Sinclair represented her country 331 times in more than 23 years, which feels like both an eternity and an instant.

Christine Sinclair'sShe was voted Football Player of the Year in Canada 14 times. She won Olympic gold twice and Olympic bronze twice. She appeared in six Women’s World Cups, scoring five times.

Her 190 international goals are the most ever scored by a female football player. She made her debut on March 4, 2000, as a 16-year-old on the big screen. It happened in her second official game, against Norway, at the Algarve Cup.

She scored her final goal against Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF W Championship on July 5, 2022, at the age of 39. That happened in her 311th game.

In the meanwhile, she earned points against 40 more countries.

She didn’t score against Australia, but Quinn scored Canada’s only goal after Sinclair soared into the air to flick on a corner kick, giving her one final crucial touch. It seemed natural that it was with her head, for which she had to battle.

Before the game, Sinclair was interviewed by CBC Sports and asked how she wanted to be remembered.

“A proud Canadian,” she went on to say, “that gave their all.”

She truly did offer us everything she had. She has always been fiercely private, with enormous reserves of public resolve. When she finally got off the pitch, she appeared to be depleted.

She was substituted in the 57th minute — with all the hugs, it was the 59th by the time she came off — and she didn’t cry when she removed her captain’s armband and passed it to her friend and fellow retiree Sophie Schmidt. She smiled, applauded the standing audience, and staggered towards the bench, completed.

Christine Sinclair'sThe game went on without her. It wouldn’t be long before the clock struck twelve and Christine Sinclair Place reverted to BC Place. The honor, like all glories, was transitory. The gift, like all sporting greatness, was fleeting. Nobody can play forever. Every winning streak comes to an end.

But the best athletes play so brilliantly for so long that they become almost permanent. We make statues and plaques out of them. We hang their phone numbers from the rafters and write their names on the walls. Sometimes we give them permanent spots in our hearts.

Sinclair will assume her post in the athletic afterlife after one final professional season with the Portland Thorns and possibly a short vacation. She’s expressed an interest in coaching in the future. She will continue to strive for equality and to improve the status of women in sports.

She will keep her work quiet. She will be mortified whenever she hears applause again. She diverted attention away from the start of her special night. During warmups, Sinclair’s teammates all wore her No. 12. Schmidt’s No. 13 was on her.

Her future impact will be likewise modest, the result of a cautious, gradual accumulation of contributions. It will appear in flashes and glimpses, best witnessed via her generations of hopefuls.

On Tuesday night, there were considerably more than 190 of people watching her. The stadium lights sparkled in their gleaming eyes as many wore her name on their slender shoulders.

That is the true reward for the greatest among us. We encourage our children to try to be like them, and from now on, anytime a girl grows up to be a woman and decides to play like Christine Sinclair, she will be there, making us proud once more.

 

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