A Reluctant Hero’s Journey in Women’s Soccer

Playing the Long Game: A Memoir
By Christine Sinclair with Stephen Brunt
235 pages, $34, Random House Canada

I had the fortune to meet Christine Sinclair before the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. The Canadian Women’s Soccer team was working out on the infield, my teammates and I around the oval at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. Towards the end of our workout I had either a really hard 300 or 400m interval, and I’d completed many reps before so my vision was tunnel-like and blurry in the peripheral. This hard effort coincided with the Canadian Women’s Soccer team finishing up their practice and crossing the track. Breathing heavily I saw this figure and rollie bag about to cross the track. Through my gasps, I was trying to call out ‘track’ to signify that I was barrelling down the home straight with my teammates. I finally got a solid ‘track’ out between gasps and of course it sounded like I was yelling, and who was I yelling at, none other than the great Christine Sinclair. Doubled over on my knees finishing I was trying to apologize profusely, so was Sinclar. That’s my moment with Christine Sinclair, it’s lore in our house and a moment I’ll cherish forever.

A bit like Christine Sinclair, this book is shy. Please do not take that to mean the book is not good, it’s told through the heart and mind of Christine Sinclair, who is admittedly shy. Sinclair tells her story through her rise in the Canadian soccer ranks to become the world’s leading goal scorer, male or female (Rinaldo leads the mens with 117 in international play, Sinclair has 190!). 

The last chapter of the book, A woman in sport, is the most passionate part of Sinclair’s book. You can feel her desire to continue to change women’s sport in the pages; it’s almost as though her hands come through the pages, grab you by the shirt collar, pull you in close to her face so you can hear her say ‘we are still not doing enough.’ 

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that a little girl should have every opportunity a little boy gets. I’m not talking about the opportunity to play here, because in Canada, girls do have the opportunity to play. I’m talking about the advancement of girls and women in all parts of the sport.”

As the book weaves through her life along with the triumphs you can feel her struggles. Her questioning of ‘what if I was a boy who grew up playing and I was equally as good.’ Like the reader you can sense Sinclair questioning ‘what if.’ 

Since the release of this book, Sinclair announced the intention to launch a women’s soccer league across Canada, where Sinclair serves as a league advisor. Currently soccer leagues develop female athletes from a young age up through to university, but after graduating there is nowhere for players to continue to play professionally here in Canada. Women must either sign with a US or European team to remain in the game. Sinclair says Canada is the only top-20 FIFA team without a national circuit and that needs to change.

Go pick up this book to learn more about Sinclair’s rise through soccer as a child, growing up in her house, and why she still remains private. Read this book for the young soccer stars in your life and to come to represent Canada. Read this book for the female athletes and why we continue to need help to earn our place of equality at the sports table.