Christine Sinclair, the top goal-scorer in international soccer, has announced she will retire from the Canadian national team at the end of this season.
Sinclair, 40, cryptically announced her decision Thursday night on Instagram with a video that showed a pair of cleats swinging in the breeze while hung on a goal, but the post included no text.
On Friday, the long-time Canada captain added a poignant letter to her 16-year-old self on social media: “You are a national team player now; you are exactly where you belong. Trust yourself,” she wrote.
“Here I am preparing to tie the bow on an unbelievable international career shared with so many incredible teammates, coaches, support staff, fans and of course family. We are not here without them,” she said, signing off with her nickname, Sinc. “Here I am in the 90th minute of our journey.”
Sinclair has scored 190 international goals, most among both men and women, since she made her national team debut in 2000. She has played in 327 matches for Canada. Cristiano Ronaldo, the top scorer among men, has 127 goals.
Sinclair is among just five players to appear in six Women’s World Cups, and one of just three players to score in five. But a title in soccer’s biggest tournament eluded her — at this summer’s World Cup, Canada did not advance out of the group stage.
She has won a pair of Olympic bronze medals and won Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games. She scored the game winner over Brazil for the bronze medal at the 2016 Brazil Olympics.
A native of Burnaby, British Columbia, Sinclair was on the University of Portland’s two NCAA championship teams and has played since 2013 for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“Very few players can lace up their boots and transcend a sport both in this country and globally. Sinc has done just that — both as a player and a person. She is known and admired by all Canadians and has been pivotal in every single country stopping moment,” Canadian coach Bev Priestman said in a statement Friday. “I feel very fortunate and privileged to have worked with Sinc, the greatest of all time, not only in what she has done but in how she has done it.”
Although softspoken, in recent years Sinclair has been a fierce advocate for equal pay. The men’s and women’s national teams have been negotiating new contracts with Canada Soccer for more than a year and the talks have at times been fraught.
The women’s team threatened to boycott the SheBelieves Cup in the United States earlier this year. Canada Soccer threatened legal action and the players acquiesced but wore purple T-shirts during pregame ceremonies that read “Enough is Enough.”
The team negotiated interim funding agreements paying players for 2022 and this summer’s World Cup, but the negotiations continue.
John Herdman, who coached Canada’s women for nine years, called Sinclair an icon.
“I mean, what can’t you say about Christine? I was privileged and honored to be part of that rise, to see her rise into a true leader,” said Herdman, who is now coaching Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC. “I always knew she was a great footballer, but I know in the time we spent together she started finding her voice and brought other people with her in ways she’d never done before.”
There are just two international windows left this year. Canada, ranked No. 10 in the world, plays Brazil on Oct. 28 in Montreal and Oct. 31 in Halifax. In her Instagram post, Sinclair hinted that her national team journey would end where it began, in a match in Vancouver near Burnaby.
Canada Soccer is expected to announced two matches for the window in late November and early December.
Sinclair has played for the Thorns since the league was launched, winning three NWSL championships with the team. She is among just five players who have spent their entire careers with a single NWSL club.
At the end of Friday’s social media post, she wrote: “P.S. — Portland, how about one more year?”
“I’ve started to catch myself thinking about going on vacation, spending time with my family, going to my cabin — that five years ago would never have crossed my mind,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “But at the same time, it excites me to play professionally (for Portland) but where you have one thing to focus on. It just seemed like time.”
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