More than Lionel Messi. More than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Canadian soccer icon Christine Sinclair has cemented her legacy globally (if she hasn’t already), setting the record for the most international goals ever scored by a male or female.
Sitting one goal back of retired United States international Abby Wambach’s 184 entering Wednesday afternoon’s 2020 Concacaf Olympic Qualfying tournament match against St. Kitts & Nevis, the 36-year-old Canadian striker found the back of the net for the 184th time in her illustrious career after she was taken down in the box in the 7’.
Scoring early, accomplishing the feat, was something that Sinclair had her eyes on heading into the competition.
“[My teammates] have done a pretty good job at keeping it pretty quiet,” Sinclair told reporters on Tuesday, when asked about the record. “Today was the most it has probably been built up. To be honest, they’re probably looking forward to it more than I am.
“I just know how important this tournament is and how important the games are as we move on. Obviously I’d like to get it over with (in a positive way) just because I don’t want it to be a focus for the team in the coming weeks.”
Just as she set out, Sinclair followed up her early penalty with another first-half finish, this time for the 185th time in her career, propelling her on a pedestal of her own as international soccer’s all-time leading scorer.
While Sinclair is quick to downplay the individual milestone, the magnitude of this accomplishment is difficult to describe. Most players around the world grow up dreaming about one day being able to put on a jersey to represent their country. Almost everyone who has a passion for the beautiful game has dreamt about scoring in a World Cup Final. But the all-time international goal-scoring record?
That seemed unthinkable, a feat that was almost destined for the legends of the game like Ronaldo, Pele, or Diego Maradona.
Well, Canada, we have our international soccer legend, and her name is Christine Sinclair.
When hearing from those around the team, Sinclair’s humble comments aren’t a one-off—and it’s part of what makes her legacy so special.
“She’s a world-class footballer, but her character is unbelievable,” Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller told John Molinaro prior to Wednesday’s match. You see players or athletes occasionally at her level in the international game or in different sports who don’t put the work in, and they can’t lead. They can be a great player, but they can’t lead, and (Sinclair) is doing exactly that,”
“It’s not just luck that she’s about to break the record; it’s also a lot of hard work.”
“Canada’s Christine Sinclair is the greatest international goalscorer in the world’s most beloved sport,” added Steven Reed, Canada Soccer President in a statement. “We have watched her grow from teenage star on the local grounds to international superstar who is adored around the world. For more than 20 years, she has served as a global ambassador to our nation, continually raising the bar for our sport through her achievements on the pitch and her humble actions off the pitch.”
And it’s her teammates who echo those same sentiments about this special feat.
“She does such a great job at inspiring others by leading by example. … I’m so grateful to be in an environment to have that impact that she has on me,” 2019 Canadian Soccer Player of the Year Ashley Lawrence said of Sinclair.
"I think it was totally my upbringing that helped pave the way," #Sincy185 @Sincy12 "I just lived on the sidelines of soccer fields growing up. I grew up immersed in the sport, not that we talked about it at dinner, it was more just... playing." #CanWNT pic.twitter.com/Z8BYf0si4u— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) January 30, 2020
Part of the CONCACAF region, Sinclair’s Canadian side rolled over the aforementioned St. Kitts and Nevis this afternoon, taking a 7-0 lead into the second half, and they will take on on Jamaica on Feb. 1 and Mexico on Feb. 4 to round out Group A play.
What will likely be the Canadians most important match, however, will come on Feb. 7: a semifinal crossover vs. one of the top-two teams from Group B, which includes the United States, Costa Rica, Haiti, and Panama, as the finalists of the Qualifying Tournament will both automatically secure their place for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.