Christine Sinclair thought she’d quietly retire from the Canadian national team after helping the squad qualify for next summer’s Paris Olympics.
Clearly that wasn’t happening for international soccer’s all-time leading scorer.
“I wanted to be part of the group to help the team qualify for Paris, for the team, but for me personally it was important,” Sinclair said. “I thought that was going to be it, and I was going to walk off and not say a word.”
But the unassuming 40-year-old forward changed her mind when she heard Canada would host additional games this year.
“My friends and family convinced me: ‘You can’t just leave. You owe it to Canada to come out and play these games,'” she said.
Sinclair spoke Thursday as she prepared to play in the first two of four exhibition matches. Canada hosts Brazil on Saturday in Montreal and Tuesday in Halifax.
The team will get two more friendlies this year, both against Australia, in Sinclair’s native British Columbia. The first will be played in Langford on Dec. 1 before her formal send-off match at BC Place on Dec. 5.
Late last month, she was on Canada’s roster for a two-legged CONCACAF Olympic qualifier against Jamaica. Canada claimed its spot in France, 4-1, on aggregate over the Reggae Girlz.
Canada is the Olympic tournament’s defending champion after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Games. In addition to the gold, Sinclair retires with bronze medals from the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
However, Canada was coming off a disappointing finish this summer at the Women’s World Cup, where the team failed to advance out of the group stage.
“After Tokyo, just the way we went out and won the thing, I knew I didn’t want to play in Paris,” she said. “There’s no better way to go out, but I did want to give the World Cup one more shot. I thought this team had a unique opportunity to prove to the world that Tokyo wasn’t a fluke, and obviously we haven’t had the most success in the World Cup.
“I knew I could play, I was ready to play and give it one more shot. And then with the way the World Cup went, I didn’t want that to be it.”
Sinclair has scored 190 international goals, most among both men and women, since she made her national team debut in 2000. She has played in 327 matches for Canada. Cristiano Ronaldo, the top scorer among the men, has 127 goals.
Sinclair is also among just five players to appear in six Women’s World Cups, and one of just three players to score in five. But a World Cup trophy has eluded her.
Sinclair announced last week on social media that she would finish out the year with Canada before hanging up her cleats — even posting a picture of her cleats draped over a goalpost and swaying in the breeze.
The next day, she posted a poignant letter to her younger self that confirmed the cryptic message, but she had not spoken publicly about her retirement until Thursday.
Sinclair’s playing career isn’t totally over. She’s hoping for one more season with her club team, the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League. The Thorns have a playoff game on Nov. 5 against Gotham FC. Win that, and the Thorns will vie for a fourth NWSL championship on Nov. 11.
For that reason, Sinclair hasn’t yet pondered her legacy in women’s soccer.
“I think when I’m actually done playing, I’ll look back on that,” Sinclair said. “I’m just proud to have been part of the growth of women’s football around the world, and obviously here in Canada.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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