Soccer·Analysis

Simply the best: Christine Sinclair's goal-scoring record merely adds to her career of accomplishment

Christine Sinclair's contribution to her team can be measured in goals and assists. Her contribution to the popularity of the sport and growing the game across Canada is immeasurable. There are many parts of the world where women's soccer remains an afterthought. Not in Canada.

36-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., has earned her country's respect and gratitude

Canadian women's soccer team captain Christine Sinclair, seen above at the 2012 Olympics, set the all-time international scoring record with her 185th strike in an Olympic qualifying match against St. Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

What do you give the woman who has everything?

In a word: respect.

Respect, of course, must be earned. Christine Sinclair has been doing that it in spades for 20 years.

More accolades are on the way. Sinclair has set a new bar. No other player in the history of international soccer has achieved what she has done. Ever.

The 185th goal of Sinclair's career came in the 23rd minute of Canada's 11-0 win over St. Kitts and Nevis at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament Wednesday. Left alone, Sinclair converted an Adriana Leon feed for the milestone goal.

WATCH | Sinclair's record-breaking goal:

Christine Sinclair becomes the most prolific international goal scorer 

2 years ago
1:10
Canadian Christine Sinclair scores the 185th goal of her career, passing American Abby Wambach on the all-time goals list. 1:10

The record-tying goal came 16 minutes earlier on a penalty kick.

Sinclair was mobbed by her teammates before she picked up the record-breaking ball and ran it to the sidelines for safekeeping.

Don't expect Sinclair to be celebrating her world record anytime soon. To her the milestone will be as much of a relief as anything else. She will be happy when all the ballyhoo dies down and she can get on with her day job.

Sinclair is not finished yet. She's preparing for her fourth Olympic Games in Japan this summer. At 36 years old the twilight is beginning to appear on the horizon, but it may well be some time before the sun finally sets.

John Herdman coached Sinclair for seven years during his time in charge of the Canadian women's team. Before his departure to the Canadian men's program he told me, "Her body is a machine. She could play until she's 40."

Sinclair might be the greatest female Canadian athlete of all time. Certainly in team sports she has few peers. Hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser would obviously be in the conversation, but few other names spring to mind.

WATCH | Canadian athletes congratulate Sinclair:

Canadian sports legends congratulate Christine Sinclair on record-breaking achievement

2 years ago
1:30
With her 185th international soccer goal, Christine Sinclair become the world record-holder for most ever international goals. Here are some Canadian sports legends sending her well wishes on the feat. 1:30

Her contribution to her team can be measured in goals and assists. Her contribution to the popularity of the sport and growing the game across Canada is immeasurable. There are many parts of the world where women's soccer remains an afterthought.

Not in Canada.

As an athlete Sinclair is both selfish and selfless. It is part of a goal scorer's DNA to have a selfish streak. It is an instinctive reaction. It is coupled with confidence and an absolute self-belief that when the chance comes you will execute.

Sinclair celebrates a goal in the 2015 World Cup. The drive to score and win is in her DNA. (Getty Images)

At the same time she is all about the team. Sinclair is acutely aware that without the necessary backup she would not have got anywhere near her unique goal-scoring feat. She is always among the first to pay tribute to the supporting cast.

Sinclair's soccer IQ is exceptional. She's intelligent and experienced enough to pass the ball when a colleague is better positioned to score. Her 56 assists in international soccer are ample evidence of Sinclair the team player.

WATCH | Sinclair's record-tying penalty kick:

Christine Sinclair ties record for all-time international goals

2 years ago
0:55
Canada's Christine Sinclair records the 184th goal of her career, tying retired American striker Abby Wambach. 0:55

Yet she is a reluctant hero. Sinclair has never been entirely comfortable when confronted with a microphone — she would much prefer her actions on the field to do the talking. But as Captain Canada she has had to accept there are media obligations and she has grown into the role.

There is no question Sinclair is an inspiration. Many of her current teammates, some barely half her age, took up the game as kids after watching Sinclair. And who knows how many thousands of children decided to play soccer, dreaming of being the next Christine Sinclair.

The most prominent player - male or female - in Canadian soccer history, Sinclair has inspired countless children to pick up the game. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

We're still waiting. In my opinion there will never be another like her. She was in at the ground floor of women's soccer at the turn of the century and elevated the sport into our consciousness. Sinclair took it seriously from the get-go and so must we.

Sinclair will never match Abby Wambach's medal haul. The American icon retired with a pair of Olympic gold medals as well as a FIFA Women's World Cup champion in 2015.

She scored her 184 goals in considerably fewer appearances than Sinclair, collected a host of individual awards, and is often cited as the greatest female forward of all time.

But Sinclair has one thing that neither Wambach, nor Messi, Ronaldo, Pele or Maradona can match. She is in a league of her own. Hers is a record unlikely ever to be matched in international soccer.

It is mission accomplished.  But it is not yet game over.  

There's one other thing we Canadians can give Christine Sinclair.

Our gratitude.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now