Christine Sinclair, the world’s all-time leading international goalscorer, has announced her retirement from the Canada women’s national team but said she still planned to play for Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) next season.
The 40-year-old Sinclair’s illustrious international career includes a record 190 goals for Canada in 327 games, an Olympic gold medal and six World Cup appearances.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo holds the men’s international scoring record with 127 goals.
Sinclair, who won an Olympic gold medal and appeared in six World Cup tournaments, says she is leaving the international stage in an immeasurably better place than she found it.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the growth of the game and then, here in Canada, the fight for pay equity and standards,” Sinclair told Reuters in an interview.
“When I first joined the national team as a 16-year-old, it’s not that you don’t care, but you have other things to worry about. You’re just happy to be there.
“Just knowing that the team and the sport is in a better place than when I joined the national team ... and the fight is not over. I will still continue to fight for this team and the players, pro league, I feel like as women that will be a never- ending battle and it’s one that I will continue to fight.”
Sinclair said she knew Canada’s thrilling triumph in Tokyo was her final Olympics in 2021. She stuck around in the hope of helping Canada capture an elusive World Cup medal but it was not to be, their elimination coming in a 4-0 thrashing by hosts Australia in their final group game.
“I knew it was coming to an end just based on what I wanted to do in terms of a timeline. And then, I couldn’t have that Australia game the last game I played for Canada,” she said. “So, it was important to be part of the group trying to qualify for Paris, to go out on a better note than the World Cup.”
Canada clinched its Paris Olympics berth with a September 26th win over Jamaica in Toronto. Cameras caught a teary-eyed Sinclair embracing teammates. She informed coach Bev Priestman that night of her decision to retire.
“I still get excited to go to training. I still have an off day and I’m like, ‘What can I do in terms of it not being an off day?’ I think I’m always going to be wired like that,” she said.
“But what started to creep in is the excitement of having an off-season and the FIFA windows being a break and being able to spend more time with my family and go on vacation and things like that that I haven’t been able to do since I went to college. My niece’s are getting older and I want to be able to spend time with them.
“And honestly, you can’t play forever. And this seems like a good time to be done,” she added, with a laugh.
Sinclair is one of Canada’s most recognisable athletes. Crowds at matches are typically dotted with dozens of No. 12 Sinclair jerseys, a number she chose as a young fan of Toronto Blue Jays’ baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.
She was non-committal about her future after the World Cup but had fans abuzz late Thursday evening when she posted a cryptic Instagram video of white soccer boots hanging from a crossbar with the sounds of children playing.
Sinclair - known by teammates as “Sincy” or “Sinc” - is on the roster for Canada’s friendlies versus Brazil on October 28 in Montreal and three days later in Halifax. Canada Soccer is expected to announce a pair of send-off games on Canada’s west coast during the November 27 to December 5 international break.
There are bound to be tears.
“I’m sure,” she said. “I definitely go through moments and right now I’m weirdly like really okay. But around games I’m sure I’ll get emotional.”
Sinclair has also led the Portland Thorns to three NWSL titles. They secured a bye to the semi-finals where they will host a yet to be determined opponent on November 6.
Off the pitch, Sinclair was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2013 and made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017.
She is also active in raising awareness and funds for multiple sclerosis. Her mother Sandra died of MS in 2022, which Sinclair opened up about in her book “Playing the Long Game.”
Sinclair is in the Canada squad for a pair of friendlies versus Brazil on October 28 in Montreal and three days later in Halifax. Tickets for the game at Halifax’s Wanderers Grounds, which seats 6,400 fans, sold out in 20 minutes.
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