Christine Sinclair sounded surprised, almost insulted, that rumours of her imminent retirement from competitive soccer had surfaced on social media this week.
“I had one of my more successful years as a soccer player. People that are talking about retirement can just go watch some of my games,” the 33-year-old forward told CBC Sports on Friday from Vancouver, where she was helping promote a Feb. 4 friendly against Mexico at B.C. Place Stadium.
On Aug. 19, Sinclair scored the decisive goal in Canada’s 2-1 victory over the host Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro to give the squad back-to-back Olympic bronze medals. It was the Burnaby, B.C., native’s third goal of the tournament and 165th in international play since making her debut for Canada 16 years ago.
It was a milestone day for Sinclair, who made her 250th international appearance and had tears in her eyes following the match.
‘I still have a passion … to help my team, whether it’s the national team or at the pro level. I’m having fun.’ – Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair on rumours of her imminent retirement
“I have loftier goals so I’m not done yet,” said Sinclair, whose season with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns ended in a 4-3 semifinal loss to Western New York Flash on Oct. 2. “I still love this sport.
“I still have a passion to improve, a passion to help my team, whether it’s the national team or at the pro level. I’m having fun.”
Sinclair said there was a change in attitude at the national level after Diana Matheson’s extra-time goal gave Canada a 1-0 bronze-medal win over France at the 2012 London Olympics, that came on the heels of an emotional 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States.
“Winning that bronze medal might not have been fully deserved,” Sinclair said. “But obviously the game against the Americans, I think it was the first time as a national team that we felt we deserved playing against these [elite] teams and had a legitimate shot at beating them, and that’s only grown.”
Canada now ranks No. 4 in the world after the bronze-medal finish in Rio, and a quarter-final berth at the Women’s World Cup in 2015. Sinclair scored in the painful 2-1 loss to England at that tournament, hosted in Canada.
At Friday’s news conference, Canada head coach John Herdman said his charges need to win a World Cup, Olympic gold and beat the U.S. to be No. 1. He also called on professional establishments to “step up,” perhaps a pointed finger at the NWSL to make like Major League Soccer and add a team or two in Canada.
‘Burning desire’ to improve
Sinclair said the Canadians are on their way to No. 1 status because, unlike a couple of years ago, they are consistently beating the world’s best.
“The World Cup, at least for me, was a moment when I realized, ‘We are here. We are this close [to being the best],'”she said. “In Rio, we were right there with the best teams in the world. With four more years under John, we’re only going to be that much better.”
Sinclair said there’s a “burning desire” amongst her teammates to continue to improve and never be satisfied. The Olympic experience, she added, will only help 17-year-old midfielder Deanne Rose — Canada’s youngest player in Rio — flourish on a team with a youthful/veteran mix.
“I think it’s their attitude,” Sinclair said of the strength of Canada’s young players. “They don’t have the baggage that a lot of the veteran players have. They don’t have the history of losing to the Americans for the past six years. All they know is Canada won bronze in London, narrowly lost to England in the  World Cup and then won bronze in Rio.
“There’s an expectation that Canada is a successful program and that’s all they know and I love that about them.”
The Feb. 4 friendly will be a celebratory homecoming for the Canadian women’s outfit and its first match at B.C. Place since placing sixth at last year’s World Cup.