Sunday 27 November 2016, 02:53

Canada's star duo hoping for recognition

Few individuals have contributed as much to the resurgence of women’s football in Canada in recent years than Christine Sinclair and John Herdman. After the latter took over as coach in 2011, the Canucks twice won bronze at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament and climbed as high as fourth in the FIFA Women's World Ranking. Sinclair, meanwhile, is the team's figurehead on the pitch, scoring 165 goals in 250 appearances and featuring at FIFA Women’s World Cups™, Olympic Football Tournaments and in countless other competitions.

It comes as little surprise to either of them, then, that the other has been shortlisted for The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016™ – Sinclair for The Best FIFA Women’s Player and Herdman for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach. “He's the best coach I’ve ever had,” said Sinclair, who feels the Englishman would be a worthy winner, to “The journey that he’s taken with this team and the improvements that he’s made – it’s just fantastic. He’s completely changed football in Canada.”

Speaking of her own nomination, the 33-year-old expressed her honour at being in the frame for the award for the eighth time. “It was an interesting year, and a successful one. To beat Brazil in Brazil and win a medal was really something special, and scoring the winning goal in the third-place play-off was something I’ll never forget,” she recalled, before reflecting on the tough competition she is up against for the accolade. “I think it’s going to be difficult to beat Melanie Behringer or one of the other German players that won gold. They had a great year. I’d tip one of them to win it.”

Herdman happily reciprocated the praise sent his way by his star striker and representative on the pitch. “I really want her to win it. In the last few years, she’s achieved some great things. At the Olympics, she led a young team to finish third and she’s a legend in women’s football.”

The 41-year-old is also in familiar territory, having been up for the award twice before. “This is the third time I’ve been nominated, but I think there are lots of coaches in the world who do a great job, and I would hate to put myself at the forefront of them all. It was a great year for me with Canada – we’ve never achieved so much – but I’m not doing this job alone. I have a great team around me. Events like these are important for recognition in football, although at the end of the day, it’s the players that deliver success out on the pitch.”

One subject on which the two agree is the wisdom of having fans join in the voting to decide the winner. “It will help women’s football to become even more popular,” said Sinclair, with Herdman adding: “The fans are a huge part of our game. It’s the right step to allow them to have a say.”

The duo must wait until 2 December before the shortlist for each award is whittled down to three names. Yet, even if only one of them takes home an award in Zurich on 9 January, it will be just reward for a hugely successful year. Meanwhile, they have both already set their sights on achieving their next target.

“I’m looking forward to the coming year and how the team is going to develop further,” says Sinclair. “Our coach has told us that we can be the best team in the world in four years. We’ve still got some way to go, so in the next four years, I’ll give everything to hopefully stay injury-free and go a round further at the World Cup and the Olympics.”