Thursday 21 March 2019, 09:48

Christine Sinclair: Brilliance with a broken nose 

  • Sinclair remembers her fantastic free-kick against Germany in 2011

  • The Canada captain played much of the match with a badly broken nose

  • Sinclair: "You’d need a broken leg to keep me out of World Cup games"

"Pure joy" is how Christine Sinclair, in this video, describes her emotions on 26 June 2011. In truth, such a brief and wholly positive account tells only part of the story.

It is certain there would have been joy, richly deserved, at scoring an inch-perfect free-kick in front of 73,680 awed spectators. But what Sinclair declines to mention here, and what made her wonderful goal all the more extraordinary, is the pain that accompanied her pleasure.

Early in the second half of this match - Canada’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ opener against hosts Germany - Sinclair had taken an elbow to the face from Babett Peter. "As soon as it happened, I knew my nose was broken,” she said later. “It just went crunch."

Carolina Morace, the Canucks’ then coach, had good reason to remember the moment too. It seemed certain, after all, to force her star player out of the match. “The doctor said to me, ‘Her nose is broken. She can’t play,’” Morace recalled. “I asked him what she’d be risking. He said, ‘If she gets hit again in the face, it will be worse and maybe she’ll need surgery.’ But she looked at me and said, ‘Let me play.’”

It was a decision that typified the spirit of Canada’s captain, talisman and all-time leading scorer. Even her team-mates questioned its wisdom. “I looked at her and I thought, ‘Oh my,’” said goalkeeper Erin MacLeod. “Her nose was like a big zig-zag. I said, ‘Do you really want to still be here?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I got it.’ She's tough.”

“I was like, ‘Ok, my nose is still there. I can carry on’,” Sinclair said later, speaking to “The coaching staff thought it was dangerous, but I promised them I wouldn’t take another knock... It’s the World Cup. You need to have like a broken leg to keep me out of World Cup games.”

Canada went on to lose 2-1, while Sinclair needed to have her nose reset – “something I wouldn't wish upon anyone” – and play the remainder of the tournament in a protective mask. But her courage in Berlin’s Olympiastadion was at least rewarded when she earned, and scored, one of the finest free-kicks seen at a Women’s World Cup.

So, pure joy? Perhaps not. But all the same, as the Canada icon says: “It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Did you know? A Sinclair shirt, signed by the striker and her Canada team-mates, features in the Women’s World Cup archive at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.