Christine Sinclair does not like to celebrate, and the thing she most dislikes celebrating is herself. She’s never had any interest in being the standout individual in the Canadian national team, though she’s been exactly that for 20 consecutive years. But on Wednesday, she pulled off an accomplishment so incredible, she let herself celebrate for once: Her 185th career international goal, breaking Abby Wambach’s record.
Whenever Sinclair is asked about her personal accomplishments, she changes the subject quickly. Her goal celebrations are never more than a fist pump and a hug for her teammates. The consistency of her behavior over the course of two decades, with no publicly documented breaks in this pattern, suggests that she genuinely dislikes praise and attention.
But this was a special occasion, and for once, Sinclair allowed herself a celebration. In an out of character moment, Sinclair participated in a planned post-goal skit with her teammates.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) January 29, 2020
This was a moment uniquely worth celebrating, even for the celebration-averse. It’s not just because she’s scored more international goals than anyone else in history; it’s how likely she is to stand alone atop the record book forever. Women’s soccer is changing, and it would be stunning if anyone ever got close to touching Sinclair’s 185 goals.
More countries are getting good at women’s soccer, and games like Canada’s 11-0 win over St. Kitts and Nevis in Olympic qualifying are becoming increasingly rare. Vivianne Miedema has an impressive 69 goals at 23 years old for the Netherlands, but the quality of her opponents will increase rapidly over the next decade.
International play has taken priority throughout the history of the women’s game, but every year it becomes more like men’s, with clubs becoming the priority for players. Never again will someone of Sinclair’s quality play a half-dozen games in a year outside of FIFA mandated international windows, or take a full season off club ball to focus on her national team.
It’s also difficult to envision someone matching Sinclair’s longevity for similar reasons. She kept her legs fresh by playing fewer than 20 high-level pro matches in some years, while the likes of Miedema play 40-plus in busy seasons where they’re healthy. Number of pro games played is a better predictor of when someone will decline than age — Wayne Rooney, for example, saw a massive dip in production before he was 30, in large part he played a grueling pro schedule by age 16. The future young Sinclairs of the world won’t be as good at 36 years old as she is now.
Sinclair’s record is likely to stand as one of the greatest individual accomplishments in the history of soccer, but now that she’s reached it and let it sink in, she doesn’t want to hear about it. She let everyone pat her on the back for one quick moment, and then she went right back to being Christine Sinclair.
Now in the presser with Sinclair, the first question is obviously about the record. Sinc shrugs a bit – more important things to focus on now, she says. pic.twitter.com/2AdNPi6i2e
— Yenith Bailey stan account (@thrace) January 30, 2020
Yeah, just the 185 goals, ¯_(ツ)_/¯.