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Burnaby soccer icon Christine Sinclair retiring from Canadian national team

The 40-year-old will hang up her international cleats at the end of 2023, ending a legacy that started on Burnaby's local fields.

Burnaby soccer fans may soon get to see a homegrown talent, Canadian and international sports icon one last time before she hangs up her cleats for good.

Christine Sinclair has announced she's retiring after nearly 25 years competing for the Canadian senior women's national team, noting she'll play in all friendly matches until the end of 2023.

That could include a farewell tour to the west coast as Canada Soccer is expected to announce two more home matches for the last FIFA international window of the year, which runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 6.

Nothing is official, but big celebrations and acknowledgements will likely be planned. Her last meaningful game on home soil was on Sept. 26 when she came off the bench in the second half of Canada's 4-1 aggregate win over Jamaica to qualify for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

That'll give the maple leafs the chance to defend their Tokyo 2020 gold — the highlight Sinclair told The Canadian Press that she realized it was getting close to calling it a career.

"After Tokyo, deep down inside, I knew I didn't want to play in Paris," she said. "The way the Tokyo Olympics ended, you can't beat it.

"I wanted to give it one more shot for the World Cup, just because I really thought we could be successful there and we hadn't been successful in a long time at World Cups."

At peace

The FIFA 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was Sinclair's sixth trip to the international event. Canada failed to make it out of the group stage.

Still, at 40 years and 38 days at the start of the World Cup, she was the second-oldest player at the tournament.

Sinclair's status as a living international legend may live on forever as her record 190 goals in 327 caps in a Canadian uniform since coming onto the scene as a 16-year-old on March 12, 2000, may be hard to beat.

Add in three Olympic medals (gold, Tokyo 2020; bronze, Rio 2016; bronze, London 2012), the Northern Star Award (2012, Canada's Athlete of the Year), a spot on Canada's Walk of Fame (2013), inductions to the Order of Canada and B.C. (2017 and 2022), The Best FIFA Special Award for being the leading international goal-scorer (2022) and three club titles with Portland Thorns FC (2013, 2017 and 2022), she said she feels at peace with her decision.

"I can sit here and know that I've literally done everything I can and given all of me to this national team since I was 16 years old," Sinclair explained.

"In terms of what I've done and knowing the work I've put into it, I have zero regrets … I know I've done everything I can for as long as I can. And the team's in good hands moving forward."

Burnaby legacy

Sinclair's name is synonymous with Burnaby and is literally enshrined in the community for all to remember her contributions.

In September, more than two years after the official announcement, she was able to return to her hometown for the official "kick-off" of the Christine Sinclair Community Centre (3713 Kensington Ave.).

Greeted by young minor soccer players, politicians and community leaders, a dedication wall was also unveiled to mark the occasion, much to humble Sinclair's own surprise.

"It's nice to see all these kids continue with that sense of community and passion and be able to play the game that they love, and for me that's what it’s all about," she said at the event on Sept. 9.

"It's about the love of the game. I wouldn't have been able to play for over 20 years if I didn't have it, and that love was forged on the fields right here, just me as a little girl playing with my friends or my brother and his friends because they let me play."

During her speech, she recalled her first-ever team was called the Burnabees, and her brother Mike and Aunt Sue coached her Burnaby South Secondary girls soccer team all the way to the provincial finals.

What's next

Sinclair is slated to play in two friendlies for Canada in Montreal, Oct. 28, and Halifax, Oct. 31 — both against Brazil. 

The two other international friendlies, said to be against Australia, are rumoured to take place in Vancouver and Victoria at dates to be announced later.

Sinclair told The Canadian Press she plans on playing one more season with Portland in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) next year.

The club team is set to begin its quest for a fourth championship starting next month.

After walking off the pitch for good, Sinclair said she would like to get into coaching, but don't expect her to be the main bench boss.

"That's seem awful and stressful and something that doesn't interest me at this point," she noted. "But the thought of being a unit-specific coach, like for the strikers for instance, is something that excites me.

"But then at the same time when I do stop playing for good, I know I'm going to have a lot of opportunities and options."

As well, Sinclair has admitted recently thinking of extended vacations and spending time with family and going to her cabin as part of her immediate retirement plan.

Her formal announcement came a day after posting a retirement teaser on her Instagram, showing a pair of cleats hanging from a cross bar.

Canada Soccer also recently posted a video unveiling the senior women's team rosters for its friendlies with Brazil in alphabetical order, but saved Sinclair for last. 

- with files from Jess Balzer and Cornelia Naylor, Burnaby NOW, and The Canadian Press