In the twilight glow of Vancouver’s B.C. Place, now christened Christine Sinclair Place for one historic evening, a heart-stirring narrative unfolded as Captain Christine Sinclair graced the pitch for her final international act. In a tearful pre-game homage, Sinclair was feted and admired, a prelude to the night’s fierce showdown with Australia that found Canada emerging victorious with a slender yet decisive 1-0 triumph.
At the age of 40, Burnaby’s own Sinclair relinquished her role in the 58th minute to Sophie Schmidt. That moment marked a watershed in a sterling career punctuated by a world-record 190 goals and the unwavering affection of legions of fans. The stadium, pulsing with 48,112 spectators, erupted in an ovation as Sinclair, enveloped in the warm embrace of her teammates, passed the captain’s armband to Schmidt and exchanged a heartfelt hug before turning to the crowd—her crowd—with waves of appreciation and a clinch with coach Bev Priestman.
Sinclair, whose name is synonymous with 331 senior caps festooned with dedication and skill, has outshone in her tenure on the field, a tenure spanning over 27,601 minutes she dedicated to her country’s glory. Surpassing all peers, bar the lone Kristine Lilly, Sinclair remains at the pinnacle with no contemporary in men’s or women’s international football scoring more goals.
As unassuming off the field as she is resolute on it, Sinclair has shouldered the identity of Canadian soccer, shining as a beacon of quiet strength and unwavering commitment. The ceremonious evening began with tearful tributes, including a touching salute from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, heralding her immeasurable influence on the sport and on the nation’s athletic mantle.
The narrative of the match weaved a tapestry of tension and strategy, with Australia brandishing a mightier contingent than the side that faced disarray days earlier. The Canadians, ranked 10th globally, slowly but surely imposed their will, intertwining Sinclair’s expertise with the verve of their ascending squad.
The constellation of events aligned in the 40th minute as Sinclair directed a header setting the stage for the game’s pivotal moment. Kadeisha Buchanan’s thundering shot rebounded off the frame of the goal, only for Quinn to nod it into the net— a battle cry in what would be the match’s sole but fulfilling goal.
Sinclair’s prominence wasn’t confined to her scoring instincts; she served as a bulwark, offering her prowess in defense and exhibiting deft touches that underscored her mastery and poise.
The specter of celebration loomed large, swelling in the 12th minute—an entire stadium alight in honor of number 12, Sinclair. The Australians, cleaving through the applause, nearly punctuated the moment with a goal, but for the swift intervention of Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.
Sinclair, accompanied by devoted nieces Kaitlyn and Kenzie, was greeted by the adulation of a society that has seen her presence as a cultural touchstone. Her impact, weaved into the fabric of the national teams’ lore, was celebrated with retired jerseys and heartening words from acclaimed sports figures like Catriona Le May Doan.
Special honors were bestowed upon the sentimental occasion as Canada Soccer convened more than 20 Hall of Famers and a contingent of over 50 former internationals, witnessing the closure of Sinclair’s international chapters.
This match also harbored the finality for Schmidt, who, after her 226th cap, chose to align her adieu with her venerated teammate Sinclair. The revered McLeod had already hung up her boots earlier in January.
Sinclair, who first donned the maple leaf as a sixteen-year-old against China, leaves behind an unparalleled legacy, encapsulated in Olympic glory, multiple “Canada Player of the Year” awards, and a storied presence across World Cups.
While Sinclair’s international odyssey concludes with the setting sun of Vancouver, her footballing journey persists with another season pledged to the Portland Thorns. Schmidt and McLeod, too, vow to continue their pursuits at the club level.
On this night, as the Canadian women basked in the echo of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love,” Sinclair adorned Schmidt’s number 13, as the others donned her trademark 12—a homage to a captain, a talisman, and now, an enduring legend.