Christine Sinclair had no idea when she first tugged on a Canada jersey that she’d ever make anywhere near No. 200.
But on the eve of her 200th appearance, Canada’s captain and one of the game’s finest female players said it’s a testament to how the national women’s program has grown over the course of her career.
“Someone like Charmaine Hooper, she played on the national team forever and never made 200 caps,” Sinclair told The Canadian Press in a phone interview Wednesday. “Andrea Neil as well… there just weren’t as many games played. Then you look at myself at 200 caps. We have so many players that are above 100 caps, and that had never happened before.
“It just goes to show the support the women’s team has been given, and just the sheer number of international games we get to play now.”
Neil played 132 games for Canada, while Hooper played 129.
Of the current Canadian women’s squad, Diana Matheson has 154 caps, Rhian Wilkinson has 143, followed by Sophie Schmidt (109) and Karina LeBlanc (106).
The 30-year-old Sinclair will earn her 200th cap — yet another major milestone in a career paved with them — when the Canadians play Scotland in the opening game of the Torneio Internacional Cidade de Sao Paolo tournament in Brazil.
“I think everyone’s excited,” said Canada’s coach John Herdman. “I’m pleased you’ve reminded us (of Sinclair’s 200th cap) because I think we almost forgot, we’ve been that focused on our work preparing for this first game against Scotland. I know it will get mentioned in one of the meetings (Thursday). For Sinclair, we’re just hoping she puts a goal in.”
The Burnaby, B.C., native has 146 career goals, and is third behind Americans Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.
Of the countless memories she’s compiled over 199 games, she said her “once-a-career-type” goal happened at this same tournament in Brasilia in 2010. Canada was trailing Brazil in the final and was down to 10 players when Sinclair scored in the 82nd minute. The tie gave Canada the tournament victory based on goal difference.
“Just received a pass from Melissa Tancredi, I was probably 30 yards out. One-timed it, left foot, top corner,” Sinclair said. “It was one of those things that you’ll never do again. But in terms of striking a ball, that’s one that I remember.”
Her first game was against China in the Algarve Cup. She was 16.
“I remember being so nervous because I had just watched them win a silver medal at the World Cup, in that famous game against the Americans in 1999, and next thing I know here I am playing against them, and just being so nervous,” Sinclair said.
Her first goal came in her very next appearance, versus Norway.
“That was interesting because it was the team Even (Pellerud, Canada’s coach at the time) used to coach, and they were one of the best teams in the world, and all we had been told is their goalkeeper (Bente Nordby) was the best goalkeeper in the world,” Sinclair said. “I intercepted a pass from one of their centre-backs and I went in on a breakaway and scored, and it was crazy. It was obviously a goal I’ll never forget.”
No question, she said, her best memories — and greatest feeling of accomplishment — came at the London Olympics, where the Canadian women beat France for bronze.
Sinclair said her parents still ask her why she’s missing from all the pictures of her teammates celebrating on the pitch in Coventry.
“I have to explain to them ‘You don’t understand, the whistle blew and I broke down in tears,”‘ she said. “You work so hard to accomplish that and to actually reach one of your childhood dreams, not many people can say they actually get to do that, and I was just completely overwhelmed by the whole winning a bronze medal, and then stepping onto the podium and seeing the Canadian flag rise. It’s pretty special.”
Sinclair said, like most of her teammates, she’s only thinking as far ahead as the women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She’ll re-evaluate everything after that.
“Right now, talking on the phone, I can’t imagine only playing for two more years,” she said. “Assuming I can stay healthy, obviously I want to keep going.”
Brazil, at No. 4, is the top-ranked team in the four-country tournament. The seventh-ranked Canadians play unranked Chile on Dec. 15, and Brazil on the Dec. 18. The final is Dec. 22.