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Photos: Humble 'hometown hero' honoured at opening of Burnaby's Christine Sinclair Community Centre

Hundreds gathered at Burnaby's new Christine Sinclair Community Centre for a party and jamboree with the Canadian soccer legend herself.

If there was any doubt about how much Canadian soccer superstar Christine Sinclair likes big crowds, lots of attention and public speaking, it was made pretty clear at the official opening of the Christine Sinclair Community Centre in Burnaby Saturday.

“I promise to keep this short because this is my worst nightmare,” she said to the crowd gathered at the sports facility at 3713 Kensington Ave.  

Even Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley quipped there was no doubt the legendarily humble Sinclair was the “most uncomfortable person” at the event, where crowds and iPhones followed her every move.

“She never talks about stuff like this, so we came up here and found out,” Sinclair’s uncle Brian Gant told the NOW. “She didn’t want anyone to come. She gets embarrassed.”

Lots of people did show up for the event, however, and Sinclair went on to share some heartwarming memories of growing up and playing soccer in Burnaby.

Her first team was called the Burnabees, she recalled, and her brother Mike and Aunt Sue coached her Burnaby South Secondary girls soccer team all the way to the provincial finals.

“It’s nice to see all these kids continue with that sense of community and passion and be able to play the game that they love, and for me that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s about the love of the game. I wouldn’t have been able to play for over 20 years if I didn’t have it, and that love was forged on the fields right here, just me as a little girl playing with my friends or my brother and his friends because they let me play."

"I just truly hope that this community centre serves a hub for continuing opportunity, development and inspiration, not only in sport, but in the arts or any path these young people choose.”

Hurley said naming the community centre after Sinclair would have been a “natural choice” based on her athletic accomplishments alone, but her charity work, her tireless efforts to elevate women and girls and her continuing ability to inspire Burnaby’s youth were even more important considerations.

“As much as Christine is a fierce competitor on the field, her actions off the pitch have emphasized her generosity of spirit and her willingness to help those in need,” Hurley said. “It is these qualities alongside her incredible career that make Christine an enduring Burnaby icon and a true hometown hero.”

When asked how it felt to have a community centre named after her in her hometown, Sinclair’s answer was characteristically down to earth.

“Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming, but it’s pretty cool, especially to see these kids,” she said, signing autographs. “I mean, that’s what it’s all about.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email cnaylor@burnabynow.com