Sinclair believes contribution to growth in women’s soccer will be what she’s most proud of

By Donnovan Bennett and Meredith Bond

On International Women’s Day, Canadian soccer icon Christine Sinclair hopes her decades-long soccer career will be remembered alongside her fight to make soccer more inclusive for future generations.

It comes amid the public battle between Canada’s women’s national team and Canada Soccer.

This battle is well-documented in Sinclair’s memoir, “Playing the Long Game,” but significant developments have occurred since that point.

Sinclair said the opportunity arose to write a memoir after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and she decided to step outside her comfort zone to be able to share another part of herself with the young girls who look up to her.

The Burnaby, B.C. resident helped Canada win gold at the 2021 Olympics and has been a staple on the Canadian national team for over two decades — playing in five World Cups and four Olympic tournaments, scoring 190 goals throughout her career.

She’s also become more and more comfortable using her voice to speak out.

“John Herdman was the first coach, the first person that kind of brought that out of me, gave me a license to speak up,” explained Sinclair.

“He taught me that it’s okay to be a leader that isn’t like, rah-rah, Let’s go. That’ll never be me. But help me understand the power of my voice and when to use it. I’m quiet. I’m shy. But when something needs to be said, I’ll step up and say it.”

Sinclair said she is seeing growth internationally, and she hopes that’s also reflected in Canada.

“The amount of attention that our men’s national team gets relative to what the women have gotten given our level of success, it’s frustrating.”

Christine Sinclair celebrates a goal on the national stage. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS.

Sinclair adds that while the gender divide is starting to make a movement, “there’s just no comparison between how a male athlete is treated and a female athlete.”

The national women’s team recently agreed to an interim funding agreement with Canada Soccer that is retroactive to last year after players threatened to boycott team activities at last month’s SheBelieves Cup tournament.

The team, seeking equal pay to their male counterparts, claimed they were not compensated for 2022. They said they’ve had to cut training camp days and entire camp windows and trim the number of players and staff invited to camps. They were told no home games would be scheduled before the Women’s World Cup this summer.

“The gap is closing,” Sinclair says

Sinclair also specifically pointed to Canadian soccer player Alphonso Davies signing a deal with Canada Soccer for the rights to his name and image, something Sinclair said she has attempted to negotiate with the association.

“This was a topic that we have brought up in many contracts. We were consistently told, ‘No, no, it’s impossible.’ I guess it’s possible. So they’re doing some backpedalling, and hopefully, things will change in the future,” Sinclair said.

“The gap is closing, but it is a very slow and tedious process. But I get to help grow the game, which I think when I’m done playing will be the thing I’m most proud of.”

Sinclair first joined the national team when she was just 16 and said some players took her under their wing and “guided [her] through life on the national team.” She now finds herself doing that for other young players on the team.

“I remember before my first game, I was so nervous, and they were like, ‘You’re here for a reason. Just be yourself,” Sinclair explained.

“I find myself telling [that] to the young players on the national team about to play their first game. Like, just be yourself, and you’ll be fine. We’re all supporting you. You’re here for a reason. I’m like, I’ve turned into them.”

In the future, she hopes a professional league will be created in Canada to give young female players more opportunities.

“Right now, I still think players make the national team by chance, not by design. You look in Europe, for instance, there’s a pathway to the national team, a pathway to pro, and a pathway to youth national teams,” Sinclair said.

“Here in Canada, I still feel like a lot is up to chance … [the pathway] is not quite set in place, but people are working to ensure that it will be in the future.”

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