Christine Sinclair’s comfort zone is typically measured in turf and metres. She’s expanding her domain, however, as she embraces the leadership role that comes with being one of the best women soccer players on the planet.
The longtime striker for the Canadian women’s national team, Sinclair is taking on a similar role
off the field that she so easily attracts on the pitch, continuing her tradition as a difference maker.
“I don’t know if my role has necessarily changed that much,” Sinclair told the NOW in an interview Wednesday. “I think the biggest thing is in terms of being a leader on the team. I’m a quiet person and just stepping into more of a vocal leadership role I think that’s been the biggest challenge that (Canadian head coach John Herdman) has given me, to continue to develop as a leader with the team.”
It’s not that she hasn’t led – as the second all-time scoring leader in international women’s soccer, the South Burnaby Metro soccer product, has been the face of Canadian soccer for more than a decade. She has been the consumate teammate, described by former teammate Karina Leblanc as “humble, but willing to do anything” for the team.
Taking a front-line role when it comes to speaking up – both in the clubhouse and in public – is where Sinclair admits to being on a steep learning curve.
Circumstances and important causes have spurred her to cross that threshhold, well beyond her normal comfort zone.
One of those initiatives is to help the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada raise awareness and funds to combat a disease that has impacted the 33-year-old.
“With my mom living with MS, it’s been something I’ve dealt with my entire life,” said Sinclair. “I’ve just finally, where I am as a person now, I know I’ve inspired kids and hopefully inspired them to chase their dreams.
“That’s made a difference, but I feel this is an opportunity to make a real difference, hopefully in the lives of thousands of Canadians living with MS.”
She’ll be making appearances next month at a few A & W Restaurants to promote their Burgers to Beat MS campaign.
On the pitch, Sinclair has been the constant centre of attention since debuting at the age of 16 with the national team. That role hasn’t changed much, despite a recent rash of teammate retirements and the infusion of young talent.
Canada, which manhandled Costa Rica 6-0 last month in Toronto, is gearing up for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France.
“We wanted it to be a statement game in the sense that Costa Rica is one of our biggest competition for World Cup qualifying, and that will be in a year or so,” she said of last month’s win. “We wanted to perform well, put on a show for our fans, score some goals for our fans but at the same time send a message to (their CONCACAF rivals) that we mean business.”
She’s in the midst of the pro season with the Portland Thorns, where she is currently tied for third in league scoring. And she has a game against the U.S. at B.C. Place in November circled on her calendar.
“Of course, they are the No. 1 team in the world. We have a huge rivalry with them, we play them so often. To be able to play them in my home time its going to be exciting. I can’t wait to take them on at BC Place again.”
While a bronze medal at last year’s Rio Olympics replaced the disappointment of a quarterfinal exit at the 2015 World Cup on home turf, Sinclair is enthusiastic about Canada’s chances come the 2019 Worlds.
“Under John, our head coach, we’ve made huge strides over the past four, five years. Obviously getting ready for the next World Cup and the Olympics, and there’s definitely some new younger players coming in, it’s just a natural turnover but its been amazing. We’ve been ranked fourth in the world (currently) and we have our eyes set on No. 1. We’re getting there.”
Coming full circle, its that step off the soccer turf where Sinclair is building a new profile.
Although still eager to surround herself and to share the spotlight with her teammates, the Burnaby native is still finding the spotlight off the turf as “new territory.”
The prospect of receiving an impending Order of Canada award is a case in point.
“I spend my time kicking a soccer ball around the field, and to be recognised in this way by your country is just something you never expect.
“It’s just the hugest, like, individual honour I’ve ever received. I’m just speechless.”