Christine Sinclair: Hosting World Cup would be huge for Canada

Canada's Christine Sinclair, centre. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Christine Sinclair is not slowing down with age.

The iconic Canadian forward is just as passionate about playing for her country now, at age 34, as she was when she made her national team debut as a 16-year-old.

This past week’s friendly against France in Rennes, a 1-0 loss, was Sinclair’s 267th career cap. She’ll no doubt add to that record number of appearances in the buildup to next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in France.

Sportsnet recently chatted with Sinclair about the departure of John Herdman, new Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller, the future of the women’s team, and Canada’s bid to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup with the United States and Mexico.

SN: There seems to be genuine youth movement within the Canadian women’s senior team. The average age of the roster for the game against France was 25.83 years. There were three teenagers on the squad (Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema and Deanne Rose), while Jessie Fleming only turned 20 last month. How does having so many youngsters involved at this point bode for future of the senior team?

Sinclair: It bodes well not only for the future, but also for the present. Our youngsters are pretty experienced. … You talk about Deanne, she’s a teenager who already has an Olympic bronze medal, which is pretty cool. [laughs] The fact you see so many youngsters coming in … it’s one thing, I think, that John [Herdman] did a very good job with – creating that steady pipeline of youth players coming into the senior team and succeeding here.

SN: What’s been your early impressions of new coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller?

Sinclair: He’s been incredible. Obviously, we know him very well because he was previously John’s assistant coach, and basically the whole staff has remained intact, so it hasn’t been that much of a transition. Most times when you get a new coach, they bring in a new staff as well, and that hasn’t been the case. You just see his passion and enthusiasm … he’s a different type of coach from John, for sure, but as a team we love it so far.

SN: I recently spoke to Kenneth, and he said he doesn’t believe in a strong hierarchy; that even though he is the coach he likes to involve players and the rest of the staff in a lot of his decisions. Do you find that’s been the case?

Sinclair: He’s a player’s coach in the sense that he played the game at a high level, and he understands that sometimes on the field players feel things and see things that coaches might not see. He’s constantly asking for feedback, during the course of training and during the course of game, about what we’re seeing and if we need to change anything. As players, we’re learning how to work with that and that’s our biggest growth opportunity, I think.

SN: John Herdman’s move to the men’s side and Kenneth’s appointment as his replacement back in January caught a lot of people off-guard. Has the shock value of the coaching change worn off for you and your teammates?

Sinclair: Yeah. We gave ourselves a little bit of time and then the first few days in Portugal [at the Algarve Cup tournament] to work through that as a team, and deal with it. It’s been all business since then. This team has lofty goals and just because there’s been a coaching change doesn’t change that at all.

SN: How closely have you been following Canada’s bid to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

Sinclair: To be honest, I haven’t been following it all that much in terms of reading up on it. That’s not me. As a Canadian, obviously, I would love to see us host some games in the men’s World Cup. As a female player on the national team, the future growth of our program is aligned to the growth of the men’s ream, and we need them to be successful, and it would help to host a World Cup, for sure.

SN: Would co-hosting the World Cup inspire a new generation of Canadian kids to take up soccer?

Sinclair: I hope so. I think it would. For young kids, both boys and girls, to be able to witness the best payers and the best teams in the world competing in Canada, it would be huge. I have no doubt that it would inspire a ton of kids, both boys and girls.

SN: Did Canada staging the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup have that kind of effect?

Sinclair: For me, the big one was after [the 2012 London Olympics] in terms of impact. That was the starting point of it on the women’s side. Coming back from London and just hearing stories from young girls, that was the big one for me. I am sure it was a combination of our success and the way our team captured the country’s attention, I think that was unique.

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