EDINBURG, TEXAS – With 185 goals to her credit, Christine Sinclair is looking back on everybody else.
Sinclair bagged a pair of goals for Canada on Wednesday night against Saint Kitts and Nevis at the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament, and the iconic Canadian captain now stands alone atop the scoring charts in world soccer.
With her brace, Sinclair, a 36-year-old native of Burnaby, B.C. leapfrogged retired U.S. star Abby Wambach as the all-time leading goal scorer in international soccer, for both men and women. Wambach scored 184 goals in 256 appearances for the U.S. from 2001 to 2015. Ali Daei is the top international scorer on the men’s side, having scored 109 goals in 149 appearances for Iran from 1993 to 2006.
Sinclair scored No. 184 from the penalty spot in the seventh minute of Wednesday’s game after being bundled over inside the 18-yard box. She added a second goal in the 23rd minute off a setup from Adriana Leon to erase Wambach’s name from the record books.
HISTORY MADE ✅
? @sincy12 has just made history, surpassing Abby Wambach’s All Time International Scoring Record, marking her 185th goal for her country.
Sinclair was subbed out early in the second half of the game, which Canada went on to win 11-0.
Recently voted Canada Soccer’s player of the decade, Sinclair took 290 games to tie Wambach’s record in an incredible international career that began when she debuted as a 16-year old on March 12, 2000 in a game against China.
Her goal-scoring spree began two days later when she found the back of the net in a match versus Norway.
Sinclair never looked back after that moment, establishing herself as one of the best players in women’s soccer. Aside from being named Canadian player of the year a record 14 times, she helped her country win back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
The iconic Canadian captain also played a part in Canada reaching the semifinals of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the team’s best showing in the competition.
Sinclair is one of only two players (Brazilian star Marta is the other) to score in five World Cups, and the Canadian forward sits tied for fourth place in all-time goals scored at the World Cup with 10.
More than the goals, the honours, and the accolades, though, the humble and quiet Sinclair inspired a new generation of Canadian girls to take up the sport of soccer and dream of one day playing for the national team – including current teammate Julia Grosso, a 19-year-old native of Vancouver who wasn’t even born when Sinclair debuted for Canada.
“When I was younger, I looked up to her so much. I still do. To be a part of her about to break the record, it means so much to me,” Grosso told CanPL.ca ahead of Wednesday’s game.
Funnily enough, Sinclair’s best performance for Canada came in a losing effort when she scored a hat-trick in an epic extra-time defeat suffered at the hands of the U.S. at Old Trafford in the 2012 Olympic semifinals. Canada went on to win bronze in London – the first Canadian group to capture a medal at the Summer Games in a team event since 1936 – and Sinclair broke the Olympic record for most goals (six) in a single women’s tournament.
“Having had the honour of taking the field with her that day (against the U.S.), I can tell you that what she did felt super-human, as a fan, and as a teammate. The level of focus and resilience it took to score a hat-trick in a game of that magnitude, in a historical stadium, against the world’s undisputed number one team is, to this day, unfathomable. That day, I fully understood the potency of human determination,” former teammate Carmelina Moscato told CanPL.ca.
Two years after debuting for the senior team, Sinclair announced herself to the world with a breakout effort at the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup, staged in Canada. Playing before big crowds in Edmonton, Sinclair scored a tournament-high 10 goals en route to guiding her country to a second-place finish. On top of winning the Golden Boot, Sinclair also claimed the Golden Ball as tournament MVP.
Sinclair made history in 2012 when she won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year, becoming the first soccer player to claim the prestigious honour. The following year, Sinclair was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017.
Coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller noted earlier this week that while Sinclair’s goal-scoring exploits tend to garner her the most attention, it’s the Canadian forward’s work ethic that stands out the most for him.
“She’s a world-class footballer, but her character is unbelievable. You see players or athletes occasionally at her level in the international game or in different sports who don’t put the work in, and they can’t lead. They can be a great player, but they can’t lead, and (Sinclair) is doing exactly that,” Heiner-Møller offered.
“It’s not just luck that she’s about to break the record; it’s also a lot of hard work.”