Christine Sinclair: Inspiring the next generation of Canadian soccer

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Image: Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Fresh off her performance at the World Cup, Christine Sinclair made time for Vancity Buzz to reflect on her career, the tournament and the future of soccer in Canada.

The World Cup showed that women’s soccer is thriving in Canada. Huge crowds came out to support Team Canada, with more than 50,000 people showing up for both of Canada’s knockout round games at BC Place. And these were passionate fans, up-to-date on the team and decked out in red and white to support their team. No person is more responsible for this than Canada’s greatest player, Christine Sinclair.

If you didn’t know her before this tournament, you do now. Coca Cola made sure of that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na9_vUCJyF4

All joking aside, Sinclair’s fame is well deserved. She is the all-time leading Canadian goal scorer (by a lot) and the third all-time in international goals, trailing only Americans Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.

Sinclair’s journey to stardom (literally, she has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame) has been a long one.

Sinclair, who graduated from Burnaby South High School, played a multitude of sports growing up, “you name it, I did it” she said. Sinclair was also a serious baseball player. She played 2nd base and wore the #12 in baseball and soccer because of Roberto Alomar of the Toronto Blue Jays. Ultimately, Sinclair had to choose between baseball and soccer at a young age.

“At the age of 13, soccer and baseball started to overlap and I had to make the decision and it was a tough one at the time… So that is when I started to focus more just on soccer outside of school sports. It was about at that same age, I was on a provincial team, and my coach at the time just said ‘you know if you keep this going you’ll be on the national team… That’s when it sort of hit me that oh, this could be good.”

She chose wisely.

Growing up, Sinclair played in youth tournaments at BC Place. It goes without saying then, that playing big games in Vancouver was extra meaningful.

“It’s a once in a lifetime chance to play in a home World Cup… So to get to come back and play for Team Canada in the World Cup is pretty special. You know, to play some of the most important games of your career in front of your friends and family is an experience I’ll never forget.”

While playing at home is special and having home field is an advantage, the pressure on Team Canada was at an unprecedented level. Sinclair expected this, sending out an email to her friends and family before the tournament began saying “don’t contact me, I’ll get in contact with you”. That may seem harsh, but it was smart. She also deleted Twitter from her phone, calling it “one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done”.

“Having a home World Cup adds an extreme amount of pressure to the home team, but at the same time it adds an extreme amount of motivation… There were times, especially in that Switzerland game [in the round of 16], where the fans gave us that extra edge when you’re absolutely gassed.”

Undoubtedly, the most pressure-packed situation for Sinclair occurred in the first game against China. With the scored tied 0-0, Sinclair converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to give Canada the 1-0 lead.

“Taking the penalty shot in that first game was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life.”

With 53,000+ fans at a soldout Commonwealth stadium cheering, Sinclair was nothing less than perfect, shooting the ball off the post and in.

https://youtu.be/7O-MuYbojIU

She appeared calm and cool, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“For me I’m nervous until the point where I decide where I’m going to shoot. And then once you decide which side you’re going to, it’s just a matter of just strike it well and make the goalkeeper make a world class save.”

Chinese goalkeeper Wang Fei would have needed an all-world save to stop Sinclair on that day.

Christine Sinclair hopes that kids in Canada were inspired by this World Cup, the same way that she was inspired when she watched the 1999 World Cup as a teenager. She recognizes a sense of responsibility to grow the game and inspire the next generation, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

For me, I watched the women 1999 World Cup and that changed my life… I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to play in the next World Cup and I was driven to do that. So hopefully some of the young kids in the stands throughout the World Cup feel the same way and now have a dream and a passion to represent Canada. And yeah, there’s a responsibility to that, but I’ve been waiting my whole career for this opportunity.

Job done.


 

Christine is extremely passionate about promoting the growth or soccer in Canada. Her passion to ensure competitors can participate in sports to the best of their ability and safely led her to become a partner in a business called MISSION. Christine and MISSION want to educate Canadians about heat safety and the importance of cooling technology to optimize performance. Overheating is a challenge faced by competitors at all levels/ages and all sports. Heat related illness and fatalities among athletes can be prevented with the right precautions. MISSION’s Enduracool towel is great for athletes, but it can also be used by anyone who wants to stay cool in the heat, including working in the yard, at a ballgame or at the lake/beach.

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
@robthehockeyguy

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