Who's Who of Canadian soccer honour Christine Sinclair in final international outing
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2023 10:30PM EST
VANCOUVER - An emotional Christine Sinclair stepped on the field for the final time in Canadian colours Tuesday, with former teammates and a bumper crowd cheering her on.
The 40-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., was honoured along with veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt and goalkeeper Erin McLeod before kickoff against Australia in front of a vocal crowd expected to reach more than 45,000.
B.C. Place Stadium was renamed Christine Sinclair Place for the night, lit up with neon Canadian flags on the outside.
“Thank you for inspiring all of us,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a pre-game social media post. “Your impact on the game, and on sports in Canada, is something we'll be celebrating for quite some time.”
Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan led Canada out as the teams took the field.
Ten members of the 2012 bronze-medallist team, including Karina LeBlanc, Diana Matheson, Marie-Eve Nault, Carmelina Moscato, Desiree Scott and Melissa Tancredi, formed an honour guard to welcome their three former teammates to the pitch.
McLeod came out first, followed by a beaming Schmidt. Sinclair came out last, accompanied by nieces Kaitlyn and Kenzie to a standing ovation. Sinclair, who seemed to be fighting back tears, tapped her heart in recognition of the welcome.
The three players were presented with framed jerseys by Canada Soccer president Charmaine Crooks and Jason deVos, Canada's Soccer's acting general secretary.
“You are truly a national treasure,” said former star speed skater Catriona Le May Doan.
Sinclair wiped her eyes and hugged her nieces, who were crying, after a tribute video played on the giant scoreboard above.
Sinclair's name was greeted with a roar when the starting lineups were announced over the PA system. And the Canadians exited the field after the warm-up to Michael Jackson's “Man in the Mirror,” part of Sinclair pre-game playlist since her days at the University of Portland.
Sinclair said Sunday she had requested 145 tickets for friend and family - and was running out. Her brother Mike said there were 43 family members alone.
Canada Soccer said the attendance was the largest-ever for a women's national team friendly in Canada. It was well above the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS attendance record of 30,204 fans at B.C. Place, set a month earlier in a 1-0 playoff loss to Los Angeles FC.
The Canadian women played before an announced crowd of 54,027 at B.C. Place at the 2015 World Cup when they lost 2-1 to England in the quarterfinal. Sinclair, Schmidt and McLeod all started that day.
Sinclair and the Canadians took the pitch for their pre-game warm-up to the sounds of Jefferson Airplane's “Somebody to Love.” Sinclair wore a jersey with No. 13 - Schmidt's number - while her teammates wore No. 12, Sinclair's number.
They were plenty more No. 12 jerseys in the stands.
A pair of bespoke boots arrived earlier in the day for Sinclair from Nike's Italian factory, complete with the No. 185 - her record-setting goal scored Jan. 29, 2024, in an 11-0 romp over St. Kitts and Nevis at the CONCACAF Olympic Women's Qualifier in Edinburg, Texas - and other personal details.
The game was the 331st of Sinclair's senior career (and her 313th start). Only retired American Kristine Lilly has more international caps to her credit with 354.
Canada Soccer said more than 20 Canada Soccer Hall of Famers and more than 50 former internationals were on hand to witness Sinclair's farewell.
With Schmidt and Sinclair bowing out of international soccer, the 36-year-old Scott is the last player from the London 2012 Olympic team still active at the international level.
It was also Schmidt's final Canada game - and 226th cap. The 35-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., retired from international football after this summer's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand but came back to time her on-field departure with her longtime friend and oft roommate on the road.
The 40-year-old McLeod, who was a spectator Tuesday, retired in January after 119 international appearances.
Sinclair was 16 when she made her senior debut March 12, 2000, in a 4-0 loss to China, opening her senior account two days later in a 2-1 loss to Norway.
In the years since, she has won Olympic gold, bronze and bronze, been named Canada Player of the Year 14 times and played at six World Cups, scoring in five of them.
Sinclair plans to play one more season with her club team, the NWSL's Portland Thorns. Schmidt (Houston Dash) and McLeod (Iceland's Stjarnan FC) also plan to continue club football.
Australian coach Tony Gustavsson made 10 changes from the experimental lineup that lost 5-0 to Canada on Friday in Langford, B.C. Only goalkeeper Teagan Micah retained her starting position with senior players such as Steph Catley and Emily Van Egmond coming into the starting 11.
Sinclair was one of three changes to an experienced Canadian starting 11 that went into the game with a combined 1,062 caps. Schmidt started in the bench.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2023.