The Christine Sinclair Interview
It’ll be a full-circle moment of sorts.
Because of that, when Christine Sinclair takes the field in front of a packed BC Place on Tuesday, she’ll be living out a familiar memory, one that she’s lived out several times before.
Having grown up in nearby Burnaby, BC Place has always been a staple in Sinclair’s life, given that it opened just days before she was born in 1983.
Especially as a young soccer player in the city, that meant that she even got to take the field a few times growing up, as the stadium would host youth soccer tournaments in the winter.
As a result, a young Sinclair got well acquainted with the stadium over the years, as she dreamed of being able to continue to play there as she got older.
But despite her wildest dreams, even she never would have dreamt of what awaits her on Tuesday.
There, she’ll take the field while wearing Canadian colours for the final time, as she puts a bow on a distinguished international career, one where she amassed 330 caps for Canada, scoring 190 goals, which stands as the all-time record in international soccer.
Because of that, the stadium has fittingly been renamed “Christine Sinclair Place” for the evening, standing as a fitting tribute to Sinclair’s accomplishments, which will be fully celebrated on the evening.
Safe to say, that’s something that a young Sinclair would’ve never imagined happening when she was playing there back in the day, which is why this game should be quite surreal for her, even beyond the festivities planned to celebrate her iconic Canadian career.
“Honestly, I don't even know what to think,” Sinclair told OneSoccer’s Oliver Platt in an exclusive interview. “Because some of my earliest soccer memories were from playing at BC Place as a youngster, we used to have soccer tournaments there every winter. So for it to come full circle, and to finish my career in that stadium, in front of all my friends and family, it’s going to be quite the night.”
Yet, that shows why this night promises to be so special.
In terms of Canadian athletes, it’s hard to think of many who have had the impact on their sport that Sinclair has, as she’s been a huge ambassador for soccer in Canada over the past two decades.
A sport that has sometimes struggled to catch the attention of the general population, despite its popularity at the grassroots level, Sinclair has helped catch the eyeballs of the nation on several occasions, from her exploits at the 2012 Olympics, to the 2015 World Cup that Canada hosted, or when her team won a gold medal at the 2021 Olympics.
But at the same time, that means that her departure will be a huge loss, as she remains one of the most recognizable faces in the sport across the country.
The good news, however? Sinclair isn’t done with her battle to push the sport forward.
Given her quiet nature, some always wondered if when she was done playing the sport, she’d disappear from the mainstream, popping up every couple of years for an event or something of the sort.
But while she certainly plans to take advantage of the quieter side of retirement life going forward, she has no plans on leaving completely, as she instead plans to stay involved in some fashion.
She hasn’t figured out what that is, as she still plans to play professionally for another year with the Portland Thorns first, but she knows that she isn’t done with the game in Canada long-term.
“We'll see, I plan to play another year in Portland, but my fight will never end,” Sinclair explained. “Whether that's helping behind the scenes with the player reps to fight for equality, or with Project Eight to fight for a Canadian league, I’m not going away anytime soon.”
Welcome to Christine Sinclair Place! ✨ pic.twitter.com/DlscMRGT1h— CANWNT (@CANWNT) December 3, 2023
Knowing that this sport still has so much potential in this country, especially on the women’s side, she feels that it would be a shame for Canada to let the opportunity they have go to waste.
One of only two teams from this past summer’s World Cup who still don’t have a women’s domestic league (they and Haiti are the two out of 32 participating teams who don’t have that in place), Canada remains behind when it comes to the infrastructure required to grow the women’s game, which is currently skyrocketing across the world.
And that’s why Sinclair is eager to continue to push for that, which is why she’s been an adamant supporter of former teammate, Diana Matheson, and her efforts to spearhead that league with Project Eight Sports.
Optimistic about the future of the game in this country, Sinclair wants to make sure that the potential that Canada has in this sport doesn’t go to waste before it gets too late, and that they fall too far behind the rest of the world.
“I hesitantly say that, yes (I’m optimistic), but I’m sitting here right now and I worry about the investment that other countries have put into the women’s game,” Sinclair admitted. “Whether it's domestic leagues or their women's national team programs, I think you saw some of the surprises that have emerged from that in Australia.”
“But that just goes to show that the countries who are investing in the domestic leagues, working to develop players and allowing those players to play professionally at a young age, it’s working. We don't have that, for the most part, the pathway is to go to college in the US, and honestly, it's not cutting it anymore, but I'm hopeful because I know there are people in this country who are fighting for the right things.”
And a big reason for that optimism, however? A look at the Canadian team that Sinclair is now getting set to leave behind, which remains in pretty good shape, even if they’re losing a key piece in their captain, all-time appearance leader and top goalscorer.
In fact, it’s arguably more talented and deeper than ever before, with players playing at some of the top clubs around the world, which hasn’t always been the case during Sinclair’s career.
Now, the big goal will be to build the pipeline within Canada so that players can develop at home instead of having to head abroad to cut their teeth, which should increase the overall pool of players, but there’s no doubt that there’s talent in this country.
Because of that, Sinclair is excited to see what this team can accomplish in the future. Even if they struggled at this summer’s World Cup, she feels that there’s no reason why they can’t compete for another Olympic gold medal next summer, and get some revenge at the 2027 World Cup.
Given that Sinclair was always worried about retiring and leaving a big void behind, she feels that this team is more than ready to step up without her, and that they’ve already started to do so over these past few years.
So as she focuses on the next chapter, that gives her plenty of solace as she gets set for what’s next, allowing her to properly enjoy this moment on Tuesday.
“It’s quality. I look around, and I see players at every position playing at top clubs, whether it's in Europe or the US, or even those who are still in college are bound to go to a top club somewhere in the world soon,” she finished. “So this team is ready, it's deeper than it's ever been, it’s got an excellent mix of youth and experience, and even players like Jessie (Fleming) and Janine (Beckie) are still young, but they've been around forever and have several World Cups and Olympics under their belts.”
“So yeah, the future is in great hands, they’ll be absolutely fine. What you saw in Australia is just an example of the way the women's game is going now, it’s a matter of inches now, and sometimes you need a little luck on your side.”
Watch the full interview on OneSoccer’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@OneSoccer