A legend steps back - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Back in 2021, I remember a refreshing bit of uprising that took place after famed footballer Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 110th international goal, passing Ali Daei to become the greatest male goal scorer in world soccer history. Media outlets and fans were quick to label Ronaldo as being the most prolific goal scorer ever, but Canadians and women’s soccer fans were even quicker to tell them that Christine Sinclair sat on that throne.
The quiet legend, as Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur called her, recently retired from international competition and many instantly (and correctly) identified her as the GOAT (the greatest of all time, for those not in the know).
Sinclair retires as the scorer of 190 goals on the international stage, six more than Abby Wambach of the U.S., whom Sinclair passed in early 2020. Over her 23-year career, she has done as much for sports in Canada as any of the other greats and has helped build Canadian soccer into the global force it is today.
I grew up in a time in which Ham Porter of The Sandlot crossed the uncrossable line when he told a rival, “you play ball like a girl!” and coaches who were unsatisfied with a player’s effort or strength encouraged them to drop their purse so they could play a little better. An icon like Sinclair, who serves as a role model to players of all types, is a generational talent and, in that uniquely Canadian way, managed to reach the top of the highest mountain as a competitive, yet universally respected athlete.
Furthermore, Sinclair - as Arthur’s ‘quiet legend’ title suggests - was never showy about her achievements and didn’t seek the spotlight while mentoring and bringing along the next wave of players - like Julia Grosso, Jessie Fleming, Jordyn Huitema, Deanne Rose and more - who are sure to keep Canada competitive on the world soccer stage for many years to come.
Jess and I have seen Sinclair play live three times, in friendly games in both Hamilton and Toronto. It’s unfortunate that Tallulah won’t be able to see her play live. We always thought it would be an incredible opportunity to bring our daughter to see the national women’s team that has been so successful for so many years - and it still is, even with Sinclair’s retirement. To be able to show her the heights that she and her fellow young woman can reach in Canada will be quite an experience for her and for us.
We watched the gold medal game together, celebrating as Canada defeated Sweden in the 2020 Olympics (played in 2021) to win those most elusive of medals. Tallulah was pretty easily distracted and is unlikely to remember, but there we sat, her mother in my Sinclair jersey, me in my Fleming jersey and Tallulah in a tiny Canada shirt, cheering on the team.
When Sinclair was 15, she went to Women’s World Cup games in Oregon. One year later she made her senior-level debut for Canada Soccer. (That was in the Algarve Cup. Canada scored six goals in the tournament, including three from the 16-year-old Sinclair.)
If Sinclair was inspired by what she saw all those years ago in Portland, how many young players can point to seeing Sinclair play as that moment for them? She’s influenced more than one generation of young soccer players and, while they may not all reach the heights that Sinclair did, that’s almost beside the point.
Sinclair deserves to be discussed among the best athletes this country has ever produced. Above all, Canada is lucky to have had such an ambassador for so many years.
She may play one more season for the Portland Thorns, her club team. One more opportunity to celebrate a titan and trailblazer.