Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sinclair 'a silent killer'

Team always comes first for Canada's humble superstar

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Just imagine, for a moment, if Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo were to ever grace the pitch at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex in south Winnipeg.

Security would be through the roof. Fans would be staking out hotels looking for a glimpse at a global sporting star. Entourages would swell to dozens deep and the paparazzi would be everywhere.

So picture then, by contrast, the sight of Canada's Christine Sinclair -- American goalkeeper Hope Solo referred to her this week as 'THE best player in the world' -- dutifully putting in her work on a frigid Tuesday morning with very little fanfare.

Make that absolutely zero fanfare.

Oh sure, there was a handful of media there to chronicle the practice. And, afterward, she waited patiently while a scrum finished up with Winnipegger Desiree Scott before it was her turn with the press.

Funny thing is, it would seem the 30-year-old product of Burnaby, B.C., is completely cool with all that.

"First of all, it's a huge honour to have somebody say that -- especially an American, as they have some of the best players in the world hands down," said Sinclair. "But it's not always something I've embraced because it's a team sport. I've always said you can't be considered one of the best if you haven't won anything.

"Finally, at the (2012) Olympics, as a team we started to get some of the respect we deserve around the world. It's a team sport and you have to win, you have to have results to be considered one of the best."

It's here where we should probably highlight some of the juicier nuggets on Sinclair's long soccer resumé, just for some perspective:

-- Sinclair has spent 14 years with the national team, participating in three FIFA Women's World Cups, two Olympics and has over 200 caps for Canada.

-- She is an 11-time winner of the Canada Soccer Player of the Year award (prior to Thursday's game she will be presented with the latest) and has been a FIFA nominee for World Player of the Year six times.

-- Two years ago Sinclair won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada's female athlete of the year.

-- Her 147 goals ranks her third all-time among women scorers, behind only Americans Abby Wambach (who is playing Thursday and has 165 goals) and Mia Hamm (158).

-- Last September, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

"Words are hard to describe her," said Scott when asked about her teammate. "She's just like a silent killer. She doesn't like the spotlight, believe it or not. She's humble, but she leads by example. She's just fierce and fearless and you can see what she does on the pitch. She's a dangerous player but she doesn't like the recognition which I think makes her that much better.

"It's great to have her on our team; she's definitely an asset. You don't always see the work that she puts in, but we're with her every day and we see the extra stuff that she's doing. She's one of the best players and she's doing that extra work to get that one inch better.

"She's a phenomenal player and definitely one of the top players in the world."

Here's an interesting take amid all the gushing: Sinclair said Tuesday her game still has room to grow. She's playing professionally now with the Portland Thorns of the NWSL and, while lining up in different positions, believes she has become more of a complete player and will continue to do so under the guidance of national team coach John Herdman.

The timing couldn't be better, what with the 2015 World Cup here in Canada and the 2016 Olympics not too far off on the horizon.

"Everything I've done pretty much my whole life in terms of soccer has been building up for a home World Cup," said Sinclair. "I mean, it doesn't get any bigger than that. So few players get this opportunity to play a home World Cup and to have come off the Olympics that we had with the expectations, the pressure... it's going to be fun. It's why you play the game."

Near the end of her chat with the media, Sinclair was asked if she planned to play through the Olympic cycle. And it was here where a layer of her personality -- not the one shadowed by her humility -- began to show itself.

"Oh, of course. I'm only 30. You make it sound like I'm 40 years old," she said with a laugh. "As long as I keep loving the game and keep enjoying being in it, I'm not going to stop until John kicks me off the team."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2014 C4

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