When I was in second-year university, my housemate gave me a Canada scarf for Christmas and told me, because I was Canadian and because I liked soccer, I should support the Canadian national team.
I politely said thank you and made a mental note to ask him later where on earth he found a Canada scarf.
The year was 2005 and I had never seen Canadian soccer anything before, most likely because I had absolutely no interest in Canadian soccer. I loved the Italian national team (mostly through Stockholm syndrome) and I was aware of the infancy of Toronto FC, but that was it – there was no Venn diagram overlap to my understanding of Canadian soccer and international support.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault; I just had no exposure to it growing up. I had not yet been born to see the men’s team play in the 1986 World Cup and I, admittedly, did not know anything about women’s soccer. This wasn’t a gender discrepancy, either – I just didn’t care about the two national teams equally. BMO Field did not yet exist and those shady soccer streams were few and far between.
Which is why I eventually tucked the scarf away (sorry Stu) and didn’t give it a second thought … much like our national teams.
But just two years later, soccer in Canada started to change. Toronto FC took over my life and the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup brought international (and Canadian) soccer to the forefront of my mind. Players were no longer just pixels on a screen, but rather people right in front of me.
Now, with access like never before (and lots of convincing by other Canadian supporters), I began to slowly rent out space in my life for Canada. I wasn’t a Canadian soccer fan yet, but I was certainly a Canadian soccer bystander; I was willing to give these teams a chance, but not a lot of investment.
Until I saw Christine Sinclair play.
One can only be so lucky to have an individual player make such an impact, that it completely changes their outlook on a sport. And because of that, I thank my lucky stars every day for Sinclair.
She’s not a flashy player. You won’t spot her immediately on the field. Her hair doesn’t change with trends and her shoes aren’t radioactive.
But there’s something about her that commands your attention, usually because she is the best player on the pitch, not to mention the best player in our country.
And that’s not just the biased opinion of a star-struck fan. Sinclair has won Canada Soccer’s Player of the Year award 14 times, and has been nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year half as often – she was also the 2012 recipient of the Lou Marsh Award and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award.
And she is generally acknowledged as the best soccer player Canada has ever produced.
That’s because she holds a gold medal from the 2011 Pan American Games, two Olympic bronze medals (2012, 2016 and was Canada’s flag bearer for the 2012 closing ceremony), has both a Golden Boot and Golden Ball, and won more awards during her time at the University of Portland (ironically including being named Academic All-American of the Year by ESPN Magazine) and via her domestic teams than my word cap will allow.
Outside of sporting awards, she has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was recently named honorary campaign chair of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada’s #ActsofGreatness campaign.
And, she appeared on a Canadian postage stamp. What!?
Even with those accolades and honours, our country’s best player is still chasing her biggest on-pitch accomplishment. As Canada start their campaign into this year’s Women’s World Cup, should Sinclair have her eye on a different prize?
At the time of this article, she is only three goals away from beating the record for most international goals scored. The record is currently held by U.S. icon Abby Wambach, with 184 goals, compared to Sinclair’s 181. For context, Mia Hamm follows in a distant third with 158 goals.
Is Canada’s World Cup narrative centred solely on three Sinclair goals and a new world record? Should we focus on beating the current record holder – an American rival – and bringing glory home to the true north, strong and free? Do we scream “pass Sincy the ball!” at every touch? Will we be glad for other goals, but secretly wish they were Sinclair’s?
No, we should not. Because that’s not what Sinclair wants. That is not her narrative.
Sinclair made me fall in love with Canadian soccer, despite the fact she often downplays her own achievements by attributing her success to coaches, family, and teammates. And that’s what makes her truly amazing.
We are about to witness the best player in our country achieve something remarkable, regardless of whether she scores three more goals or not. We have had the privilege of watching a player who loves the game, who loves her team, and who loves her country during the best stretch of her career.
Three (or more) goals would be phenomenal, but they won’t overshadow, nor would they undermine, a player who means so much for our country and our sport. While I am rooting for the ‘Sincy Three’ that is not what I hope Canada accomplishes in this tournament.
My name is Sonja Missio and I am an unashamed, unabashed Christine Sinclair fan. However, I think it does her a disservice to focus on her goals, when her own focus is on the rest of the team and the rest of the country. Enjoy Sinclair as she plays in what is (most likely) her last World Cup. Share the joy and the pain of the team together. Three goals do not define her career, as I will forever be grateful to her for making me fall in love with Canadian soccer.
Instead of focusing on three goals, focus on three words instead: Allez les Rouges.