Christine Sinclair (probably) wont play forever. So appreciate her now.
There are a few things you need to know about the woman were discussing today. I she is on a very short list of the greatest, Canadian athletes of all time, second. She would probably never admit she belongs on that list, or actually even discuss that list at all. Third. She has been on the field for some of the most heartbreaking defense. Any Canadian team has ever suffered through to the hip fido's, a comprehensive victory of Canada fulltime book of Canada ill, Frantz four. Finally beginning today after almost twenty years of leading perhaps the best soccer Team Canada has ever fielded Christine Sinclair has a chance to reach heights that would have been unimaginable. When she began her career Sinclair is thirty six now, she's been Canada's rock for ever, this might be her last women's World Cup. And it might be Canada's best ever chance to hoist the trophy and it might be our last chance to appreciate a woman who has never talked much never cared about stats never wind about the refs never done anything, but play, great soccer, and she is now poised to become perhaps the best ever at that task. I'm Jordan heath Rawlings. And this is the big story Canada's first game and the women's World Cup comes today against Cameroon. So we figured it was time to talk to Stephen brunt of sports net was covered these World Cups for years, Stephen start with just who is Christine Sinclair, where did she come from? What's her origin story? Well, she's from the lower mainland BC. She comes from soccer playing family her to her uncle's played professionally with the Portland at an earlier incarnation of the Portland timbers her dad played. She played as a kid, and, you know, she played other sports as well. But as a was a prodigy Ritchie cows, cap for Canada as a sixteen year old, it does astounds me how, you know, we're, we're talking about the early days of the sport in the country, like candidate didn't have a women's national team till nineteen Eighty-six. Yeah, yes. She played in the ninety five world or the ninety four World Cup. Right. Those game lake back. Then it was if people are soccer people. They will understand what I'm saying. Here's like old time, English soccer like vertical. So. Correct. Big kick, it down the field and the strongest and tallest and fittest would run underneath it, it was dominated by countries that could do that played that way. But it was also dominated by countries that put money into women's sport before other countries did, which is a pattern we've seen a lot, right? Like early success in Olympic women's rowing, for instance, was because we invested in it in nineteen nothing away from those great athletes, but we got on that bandwagon before a lot of other countries said in soccer even a lot of traditional soccer countries declined to invest in the women's game. There was a level of chauvinism in the in the soccer cultures so that, you know, the Brazil's and the Spain's and the Italy's they, they didn't do anything women's soccer, but Germany, did and Norway and Sweden did and we did to a degree. We were we were kind of early adapters in terms of women's soccer and the Americans did after title. Nine rank title nine was huge right into created opportunities for for collegiate athletes. So those were the countries that dominated early and but that was what they was a power game. You know power game of fitness game. And you know in assize game really strength game. How did Christine Sinclair make her Mark on that game on this team? When did she come to one to Candida notice her, I would think I guess the U twenty tournament gonna remember sales change. They change it from nineteen to twenty remediate offered was the tournament in Edmonton, where the golden generation, they, they got to the finals loss to the Americans, a recurring theme here, but played in front of forty thousand plus people in Edmonton to Commonwealth stadium too big TV ratings, so Kara Lang, and most Creedy and, and sink. You know, we're part of that team and his golden generation of Canadian women country embrace them in a way that it hadn't I don't think it'd embrace the soccer team male or female before we men's team that you know got the World Cup and eighty six and they won the Gold Cup and under Hoeger, but I don't think candidate had ever cared about soccer as much as they cared about that team that played in Edmonton. So that was kind of her debut for the Comanche was the most valuable player high-score most valuable player in that tournament. So, you know, and then she joined the national where she played for the national team and. After that, again, with people like Charmaine Hooper, who is a great athlete in her own, right. And the they, you know, they have a fourth place finish the World Cup people then forget that, that they, they did finish fourth, but, you know, I think what really started to put things on the map was what, what came later and end know and the evolution of the of the game and the pollution of the players will it's kind of a chicken or the egg situation because you had Christine Sinclair in his golden generation that kind of took over that team and dragged it in front of everybody watching. And then once you know that it can do good TV ratings, and people are really going to care. It becomes a lot easier to recruit talent bring on sponsors, and all the rest of it that puts you a little bit further ahead. Yeah. In parallel to that. The game is getting more sophisticated evolving, or changing in, in a way that soccer people found pleasing like I was kind of separate myself because I've covered soccer for a long time. But I you know, soccer people I was considered me an outsider. So I, I always kind of separate myself, but that the people who would kind of disdain women's football women. Soccer started to see the ball being played on the ground. More you know more of a passing game as a more sophisticated version of the game and started to kind of give it its due. So those things happen at the same time one is that. Yeah, you have golden generation of Canadian players coming through who had succeeded on stage, a very popular stage, anyway. And at the same time, you had women's soccer getting new respect, of course, you had that explosion with the Americans right where, you know, brandy Chastain and all of that. You know, it became a big deal in the United States. Yes. Also, the breakthrough from American soccer, you know, if you think about it, the US men's national team was pretty good for a long time. But what was the breakthrough for soccer in the US? It was the women you absolutely the women describe that scene because you probably, it's probably embedded in your memory of brandy Chastain. And that's the only thing I remember that time. Yeah, we scored the winning goal and, and stripped off her jersey was wearing a sports bra and had like an eight-pack ill. She's absolutely ripped. Right. Looks like I think it was it was a moment of empowerment for a whole bunch of. People. And I think for a whole bunch of young girls watching it was, I wanna be her. Yeah. I wanna play that game because it was, you know, it wasn't dainty. It was ferocious. It was competitive. It was passionate there were. And there are a lot of great things about women's soccer. Well, and in Canada. It's the women are better. They have men's team and it by an order of magnitude. We could qualify that say the pool shallower again. We were earlier that there is. We, we probably put more emphasis on what you see now is that, you know, England's good now in the Nederlands is getting good is against some of these other soccer countries are kind of saying, hang on, we'll Spain suddenly pretty good. But yeah, I think in Canada, they had the success and be, I think people did start the kind of tune into the fact that someone who might be the best player in the world play for us. So tell me about her that because you've covered her for while now what is Sinclair, like she's known, at least to me and casual observers for being pretty closed off. Oh, yeah. You mean per as a person as a person as an athlete? How, how is she what drives her she's super shy? She doesn't like doing interviews a drink press stuff. If you talk to her teammates tell you, she's not shy that she got a great sense of humor, which she does. But she just just playing that the public role. I remember once I went down to interview her when I was still the globe and mail. She was playing for the, the western New York flash. Again, you know, the leagues have come and gone. Right. But one of those down near buffalo somewhere, and they having an open workout for kids. And I was driving down from the globe. And I'd set it up through Canadian soccer to do this interview I think goes before the twenty seven World Cup. So it looks a low pressure environment is what I'm saying, and it's going to be a nice story and I got stuck in a little bit of traffic at the border. So I got there about three minutes before the interview was supposed to happen. But I was, you know, phony, people telling you, look, I'm coming, right? Look, she was in her car, and she was going to leave. She was honored. I almost had to throw myself in front of her car because she didn't want to do it. She just didn't want to do the interview, and it was, you know, as an awkward interview, and there wasn't much to it, and I've been persistent, I guess with her to try and get a little bit. And I have huge Marijn for as an athlete. So maybe that's part of it as well. But yeah, she's never going to be somebody who talks and soundbite. She's never going to be somebody who kind of thrown horn. It's just not in her. She's, you know, again, MBA seen her. She is a passionate ferocious competitor. And she does have a sense of humor, but it's hard to get past, you know, the veneer, sometimes why did you work so hard to get past that veneer? You know, I think a lot of it goes back to that twenty eleven World Cup which I'm sure we're gonna talk about. But I covered the tell me about the twenty eleven World Cup. You know, key so candidate went into Germany twenty seven World Cup is in Germany and Canada. There's a sense that candidate could be competitive in this turnament, sorta like now, you maybe none, as they maybe expectations weren't quite where they are now but they were pretty darn high. And that was the, you know, the, the moment for that golden generation of players. Right side from Carlisle, who got hurt that, that was that group this, and this was there, a moment and Canada had hired an Italian to coach the team. Caroliina Mirage, and the whole idea was that this was the country's, there's, like finishing school that she was going to teach them more sophisticated tactics and European training methods and this is gonna turn us into a footballing nation rather than soccer h nerve footballing team rather than a soccer team. And Caroline was an interesting like a character from fiction, you know, and they had this whole group of Italian trainers in the system coaches, and there was much intense talk and smoking cigarettes. And speaking of Italian, and she took them off to a training camp. They went to some hotel in, in the mountains in Italy. And we're locked off by themselves and trained and all of this, when you talk to them after the facts, you know. So it sounds like a prison camp. But it sounds nice now but it wasn't fun. But they all say the right stuff that okay, we're gonna we're gonna we're gonna we're way. Better way. More sophisticated. We're gonna play you know, we're we're going to our game has she is we have learned enormous amounts Mer. The opening game is against Germany in Berlin at the Olympic stadium. They know they're going to lose that game. Everybody knows he'll lose that game but they, you know, they compete and sink scores. A goal on a on a free kick. I think not a penalty free kick, but she also gets hit in the nose and breaks her nose spewing blood. And it was real was, you know in this there goes the tournament. Right. So so caroliina Marashi again, who is she was very much into intrigue in whispered conversations? I'm covering this for the globe. And for sports that we were the rights holders I was as close to any team. I think as I've ever been and there's been there. Many whispered conversations was she going to play and they wouldn't let her talk to the media, and she was. Wearing this like the mass that basketball players wherever they break their now. So the Hannibal Lecter exactly the Hannibal Lecter mask, and so she would be an it'd be sightings ever at at the practices. She would be often aside field in the distance, but we couldn't get any closer and was she kicking the ball where she really practicing and all the holy up to this thing is with her sink. Would she player wooden? She plan. Finally a remember I was offered dinner. Some was we're in same restaurant is Caroline and her Italian entourage. And she paused in her smoking long to come over to me and say, I just like to tell you that she's going to play so that, okay. So that goes out so everybody sends out the message think is gonna play. But with all of his gamesmanship and stuff, they seem to have not actually paid any attention to France. And the French were in attendance at that point, it was a really good side, and they played Canada off the pitch. So candidates tournaments now done two games and they've still gonna play Nigeria the third that game against Nigeria is the most dispiriting sporting contests I have ever seen or attended because they were done. The team is emotionally. Shattered, and their coach abandoned. So, so the coach Marashi sat on the bench with their arms crossed, and the and the by language was entirely a it's not me. It's not me just abandon them. And, you know, and you came, I came to really like those women, and I do I still liked him. I think I, I think the great people, and I felt so awful. And I just was it was so gutting, absolute worst, and their enter coaches, imagine that being written off by coach and just kind of, you know, now my fault, I I'm a I'm the supreme tactics and they just did not follow orders. So you know that and that absolute bottoming out, and then you know, they hired John Herdman after that. And he came in with his kind of happy, go, lucky John Herdman, jordi- personality. And said, why are you guys play this game? You know do you do wanna play this game? Yeah. And he helped them rebuild emotionally. And you know, year later there in London there at the Olympics, and they win that bronze-medal it just as I've never seen anything as devastating as I saw. Twenty seven I've never been happier for athlete any athlete I've ever covered that I was for those women in twenty twelve God knows they got screwed against the Americans. But the fact that they came back after that even got that one that metal man I still it did it. Yeah. It brings a tear to my really does I because they're, they're great people, and they were wrecked. They were just wrecked, and I think, you know, God knows who might have quit and never played again. If if heard Manhattan, come along, and if they hadn't kinda found themselves again, and it's crazy that, that was eight years ago, and Christine Sinclair is now thirty six she's one of the last members of that team still playing the last, yeah. I think she's last of that thinks was Sophie Schmidt on that team. She might have been. So if he's still on the team, but that would be I think McLeod and, and Dinah mass and could have been but they're both hurt. But yeah, that she's the last of that generation for sure. So what is this World Cup for Canada that starts today? What does it for this team? What is it for Sinclair? Well, I it's not I don't think it's. The end for her she's gonna play next year. They presuming they qualify allies Sushil plan the Olympics next year and it would not shock me if she played another World Cup at age forty. I don't know that she couldn't. That's amazing. She asked her about it and cheap. She lives, she lives in Portland. She's, you know she plays for the professional team there, the thorns she's done a little bit of coaching. She's very much in the sport. But I don't. Yeah. I don't think this is the this is this one song, how much is this team hers compared to those twenty eleven teams as she still the heart of oh, yeah, yeah. Look, there's, there's some there's some other people who are important this team for sure. And there were other people on those teams who are important, but yeah, I think this is this a real young group and a very, very talented group. And I think she's, you know, she's kind of everything, right? She's the best player on the team still but she's, you know, the, the mentor the, the hero of, of a lot of the meal. You know, they think about again, ten years. Think of the age of some of these young women on this team. They were kids watching London, like London to me seems like yesterday. A lot of things seemed like yesterday to me, but that was the best part of those Olympics. When we won gold medals in those Olympics. But you remember anything more than that's offer team. I don't know. I remember where was watching that match? Yeah. For anybody listening. Stephen says, he's not a soccer guy less of a soccer guy. And I watched that match on soccer guy gets a cover soccer. So that's the best of all possible worlds. But yeah. Like, like Jean Becky or some of the, the, the women on this team like they would have been kids watching the game going. I want to be her. And, and it wasn't just the result. Right. It was that I just, you know, the righteous indignation ride the anger and the passion and her scoring three goals against the Americans. And you know, she's still mad about the referee. And I don't blame her like to me that it was the fighting spirit. You know it was the like if that's if that's a Canadian thing I'll take it. I'm quite happy to say, that's that is that is her. Canadian this coming up. What about her game now on the pitch? Chat aged thirty six to the best player on the team that age and she's closing in on on records now. Well, the cool thing is, is kind of how her game has evolved over time because, you know, in that game of big tall strong women running fast she could do that. She kind mirrors the sport, she can score. Obviously we like that's yeah, obviously, but she's she's got great vision on the field. You know, she's a great distributor. She can play behind the striker is a little bit of shift if needs be, and facilitate great IQ like a crazy, high football IQ. You know, she makes really good decisions and her skills on the ball are maybe not as not as flashy as Marta, or somebody like that, but she's really good on the ball. But I think, yeah, I would say the main thing is, you know, it's kind of Gretzky and right. She sees the game unfolding around her and makes really good decisions about where the ball's gonna go. How close is she to being considered the greatest of all time in this game as she in that conversation? Well, she should be, you know, she's three goals away from setting the all time scoring record and international saw. Male or female so happy, wombat colds that record the American who's retired and is like kind of the arch nemesis. If you're a Canadian or pretty much anybody else like ABBIE is a like a cartoon American, she's she sits on. She is on that pedestal. And you know, historically, there have been some Marta still playing Brazil. She's a great great player, everybody, you know, she's the one that people kind of going to go to for, who's the best player in the world women's player in the world is say, well, Martha isn't doesn't get listed at the top very much ends near run in the all time list in the current list, you would probably be listed fifth or sixth or seventh by a lot of people. But I think if you talked to a soccer a soccer person that women's soccer person, you know, she's on a what five best players of all time. She'd be on that list. I think she'd have to be I don't know. I think you'd be you would be crazy not to put her on on that point on the list in terms of Canadian athletes. And this is my own personal crusade. But again, I think hockey players aside because we got a lot of them. She's one of the five greatest, Canadian athletes of all time, male or female, like who else is on that list, Steve. Nash, no sprinters. Donovan Bailey depending, whether you put bent on and on I, always put on, but some people don't some swimmers, but she's yes, she's right there. How does this team stack up at the World Cup compared to pass it rations? We've had two bronze medals now in a row at the Olympics. Yeah. The Olympics are, yeah. The reason to think that this one this could be more it, you know the team you know we had the World Cup right? We hosted and they got to the knock around they lost to England. It was an okay result. Wasn't a great result. I didn't think on, on home soil that was kind of a transitional team. This is more fully. You know, that, that the Transition's really happened now they've got a bit of a tricky draw, you know, that like the Netherlands is really an up and coming side and the and they're in their group. We've got New Zealand and they've got Cameroon so you know, they, they should get out of the group. I think that like the Dutcher excited, a lot of people like and I've got some really exciting players. Again, a soccer country kinda, right? Women's soccer late a lot of ways if it breaks, right? They have been lost a match since last fall Canada hasn't that was to the Americans. You know, kind of depends on how the how the draw halls after they get out of that bring, you know, presumably, get out of the group stage, but they have their very talented. They're playing with a ton of confidence right now as a unit, I think there there as you know, is what Christine set were really good. You know that was her. That was her wild overstatement where we're really good. I think they're really good. They would need some breaks, but they'll get into the knockout rounds and then it kind of depends on who they stack up against by you know, I just love to see him the American somehow just just beat the Americans in a knockout game, you know, like I don't care where it comes. Yeah. And then may end sink maybe break Abby wombats record right in the same game. That would be that'd be great outcome. The if that happens in the quarters are the wherever that might happen. I we all just go home. Happy thanksgiving. My pleasure. Stephen Brent from sports net, not a soccer guy, but I Saint Sinclair fan for life. I was the big story for more from us. You're at the big story podcast dot CA at that little search bar on the bottom and search for Briant you'll find him a few times, you can talk to us at the big story. Fbn on Twitter at frequency pods on Twitter on Facebook on Instagram and you can listen to us and subscribe for free wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for listening. I'm Jordan Heathrow. We'll talk tomorrow.