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HomeSportsSoccerWith spotlight on retiring Sinclair, Canadian captain says it was always about...

With spotlight on retiring Sinclair, Canadian captain says it was always about the team

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Christine Sinclair struggles to remember the date of her international record 185th goal.

“What day? No. 2019? 2020 — no, 2019.”

The date was in fact Jan. 29, 2020, in an 11-0 win over St. Kitts and Nevis.

So Christine, how many Olympic goals have you scored?

She takes a deep sigh, thinking for a moment, then pounds her fist into her opposite hand a couple times, wracking her brain for the correct total.

The interviewer, CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo, taps her own shoulder, pointing to where the number on a soccer jersey would be printed.

“Twelve!” Sinclair exclaims.

Sinclair, the 40-year-old Olympic champion from Burnaby, B.C., will play the final two games of her national-team career in her home province over the next week, leading Canada against Australia in Langford, B.C., on Friday before a rematch in Vancouver on Tuesday.

The notoriously camera-shy Sinclair admitted that she thought she might be happy simply fading into retirement, but friends and family convinced her to go along with the current farewell tour, which also had stops in Halifax and Montreal.

WATCH | Christine Sinclair reflects on record-breaking career:

Christine Sinclair reflects on record-breaking career

Featured VideoThe all-time international goal scorer sits down with CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo ahead of her final two matches in a Canada jersey.

Team accomplishments

It is not surprising, though, that Sinclair hopes her legacy is about team accomplishments and not personal achievements.

“I’ve never done it for the individual recognition. I look at our national team and I think we’re constantly overlooked individually and collectively,” she said.

“And we surprised some people along the way, but for me it’s never been about the individual accolades. It’s about us trying to win games, win tournaments and improve our sport.”

She was successful on all three fronts. There were two Olympic bronze medals preceding the championship in Tokyo, in addition to a CONCACAF championship in 2010 and a Pan Am Games gold medal in 2011.

However, the one missing accolade was the World Cup, in which Sinclair and Canada topped out with a fourth-place finish in 2003. Canada failed to make it out of the group stage at this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“We gave it everything and I can’t be disappointed with the effort. That’s kind of always been my motto is like, as long as you’ve given everything and you’ve left no stone unturned, what can you do? It’s a sport. The other team wants to win just as much as you do,” Sinclair said.

“And I think what you saw in Australia is the margins in the women’s game are now minuscule. … I’ve waited my whole career for the women’s game to be where it’s at now. It would have been nice to have won a World Cup. It wasn’t meant to be.”

WATCH | Sinclair reacts to retirement message from Ryan Reynolds:

Christine Sinclair reacts to retirement message from Ryan Reynolds

Featured VideoWrexham AFC co-owner and Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds sends heartwarming message to Christine Sinclair upon retirement from Canadian women’s national team.

Over the past few years especially, Sinclair has been a leading voice in the fight for equal pay and equal treatment within Canada Soccer. She’s also assisted former teammate Diana Matheson as she endeavours to start a domestic professional league in Canada in 2025.

Sinclair said the World Cup, in which countries like Jamaica staged unlikely deep runs, was proof of concept of the growth of women’s soccer.

“When I’m done playing, I can’t wait to just become a fan and watch the game and be in awe of the talent that’s out there. Unfortunately, I haven’t necessarily seen that growth in Canada, which, as I leave this team, scares me a little bit,” she said.

With Matheson’s league still at least two years away, Sinclair said it’s unlikely she’ll ever play professionally within Canada. But she intends to continue to be heard within the sport.

“I’ve always got it in me to fight to help grow the game, whether it’s domestically in Canada or internationally. This game’s been my life since I was four. So I’m not just quitting cold turkey,” she said.

WATCH | Teammates reflect on Sinclair’s career:

CanWNT players reflect on Christine Sinclair’s retirement from international soccer

Featured VideoJessie Fleming, Cloé Lacasse, Vanessa Gilles, and Ashley Lawrence share stories about Christine Sinclair through the years.

Head coach Bev Priestman described the legacy Sinclair leaves behind to both Canada and the game of soccer during a media availability following training on Thursday.

“She’s irreplaceable,” Priestman said. “On the pitch, off the pitch, it’s actually really weird to imagine life in camp without Christine.”

Like Sinclair, former teammates Sophie Schmidt and Erin McLeod will play their final games in Canadian colours in B.C.

Priestman noted that the retirements of Sinclair and Schmidt — who boast a combined 553 national team caps — will leave an undeniable void within the program, the squad is enjoying its opportunity to say farewell to both players.

“On the pitch, these players idolize and adore Christine and Sophie,” Priestman said. “Some of these players started playing or started taking it seriously because of what they’d seen on the pitch from these human beings and now they’re in camp celebrating the last moments with them.”

Focus on future

Now, with her decorated international career in the books, Sinclair’s focus is firmly on the future of the sport.

And she credited her own success to those that came before her and helped build the Canadian program to the point that it was able to win three straight Olympics medals. She said those players, like Charmaine Hooper and Geri Donnelly, were in her thoughts while celebrating on the Tokyo pitch.

Plus, with the win coming in front of an empty stadium during the pandemic, Sinclair thought of her family.

“My little nieces, they just thought it was the coolest thing and now dream of representing Canada. I didn’t have that when I was little. So I see the times changing and know that this is just the beginning for this team.”

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