Monday 17 January 2022, 20:00

Sinclair: This is once-in-a-lifetime recognition

  • Christine Sinclair has been awarded the FIFA Special The Best Award

  • It is due to her becoming the highest-scoring player in international football history

  • The Canadian legend expressed her delight and gratitude

Who could have possibly imagined the 2020s being the best decade of Christine Sinclair’s long, exceptional career? Probably nobody except the immortal from Burnaby. When most people expected her to be retired or finished as one of the sport’s elite performers, Sinclair was, in early 2020, outranking Abby Wambach to become the highest scorer in international football history. Then, aged 38 in August, she captained Canada to their first major global crown: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament gold.

Tonight, at The Best FIFA Football Awards™, the forward was bestowed with The Best FIFA Special Award for being the international game's top scorer of any gender. “I would like to take this time to thank FIFA for this once-in-a-lifetime recognition,” Sinclair told presenters Reshmin Chowdhury and Jermaine Jenas, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino, after being given the honour. “First and foremost, I’d like to thank my family for their support and guidance throughout my entire career. “From my parents’ constant support and allowing their little girl to leave home at a young age to chase my dreams, to my brother for tolerating his younger sister for all those years. I hope he knows all I wanted to be was him. I’m standing here today because of all of you. “Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to experience many successes, from winning trophies internationally and at club level and accepting individual awards. But, honestly, the victories are quickly forgotten… except winning that Olympic gold medal – I’ll remember that one forever.

“But what truly matters most is the moments I’ve shared and the connections I’ve made. From celebrating with an entire country to experiencing the heartbreak of defeat with those closest to me. To all my team-mates and staff members along the way, I hope you know how thankful I am for all of you. Together, we’ve had the ultimate goal of inspiring generations and changing the sport in our country. And I tell you, we’ve accomplished that and more. “At this point in my career, the thing I’m most proud of is being able to have been a part of the game from the very beginning, where there was limited support, limited professional environments to now, where it’s truly a global game, where there’s professional environments, successful leagues, successful international tournaments. “I do want to say that women’s football, women, female athletes have often been an afterthought. My goal moving forward is to continue the fight, continue the change and to continue growing the sport we all love.” Sinclair was then thrilled by a special surprise FIFA has planned. A video was played to her of Steve Nash, a two-time NBA MVP, sending his congratulations. “Being from the same part of the world, it is an incredible honour to send you a congratulations and tell you how much you mean to all of us back home,” said Nash. “Not only are you the leading scorer of all time, but you’re also one of the greatest players we’ve ever seen and we’re so proud that you’re able to represent Canada, and the west coast of Canada, the way you have. “You’ve inspired me, you’ve inspired my daughters, my family, my sons. And you’ve been such an ambassador for the game – not only in Canada but around the world. Gold medallist, bronze medallist, all the accolades you could ever imagine down to your hard work, perseverance, talent, charisma and the way you’re able to form bonds with the team and make them better and elevate your team-mates. It’s just been incredible to watch.” “That’s incredible,” said an emotional Sinclair. “I know he’s a big football fan. We Canadians, we support each other and I just want to thank Steve for his kind words.”

FIFA then caught up with Sinclair to ask if she could ever envisage this day when she was starting her career. “When I started playing the sport it was truly out of the love of the game,” she explained. “In my family you play soccer. “Honestly, it wasn’t until I was 14, I was watching the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the US. That was the first time the possibility of playing for a career entered my mind. I remember sitting in the stands, watching those games, being like ‘I’m going to play in the next one’. “That’s what I set my goal as and I’m fortunate enough that I was able to represent Canada at the next World Cup. To be part of the change, the evolution of the game has been incredible.”

It may have taken Sinclair two decades to conquer her first major title with Canada, but it was worth the wait. “I think my nieces have worn the medal more than I have,” she said, laughing. “I think they have claimed it. Obviously winning an Olympic gold medal is a dream come true for myself. “It’s been a long journey, a difficult journey playing for Canada. We’ve not been the most successful of teams in the past. But we did it. We were able to come together when it mattered most in Tokyo. “I’m so proud of our team, the youngsters on the team. Just seeing them come through and have an impact, make a difference… hopefully us older players on the team helped inspire them like I was [inspired] when I was a youngster watching my first World Cup.”