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Sinclair reflects on start of farewell tour that brings her through Langford

Canada will play Australia at Starlight Stadium on Dec. 1
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Christine Sinclair spoke to the media in Montreal on Thursday: “It’s a unique opportunity to play these [last few] games at home.” CANADA SOCCER

Christine Sinclair said she was content just to walk off the pitch for the last time in a Canada ­jersey after the national team qualified his month for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

But friends and family intervened and convinced the Burnaby native and all-time world leading scorer to take part in a four-game farewell tour that will conclude with games in her home province against World Cup fourth-place Australia on Dec. 1 at Starlight Stadium in Langford and Dec. 5 at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.

“They said you can’t just leave. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to Canada to come out and play these games,” said Sinclair, in her first interview with the Canadian sports media since announcing her retirement two weeks ago, and the announcement of the tour last week.

“It’s a unique opportunity to play these games at home. It’s special to play four games across Canada. I will be trying to soak it all in. I am proud to be a part of the growth of football in Canada and around the world. There will be mixed emotions for sure.”

Before coming to the Island and Vancouver, the Sinclair farewell tour begins Saturday at Stade Saputo in Montreal with Canada playing world No. 9 Brazil followed by a Canada-Brazil friendly Tuesday at the 6,400-seat Wanderers Grounds in Halifax. The Nova Scotia game is already sold out and the Canada game at Starlight Stadium against Australia is also expected to sellout at the similar-size Langford facility. Tickets for the Dec. 1 game on the Island go on sale Monday at CanadaSoccer.com.

Sinclair said she plans to stay in the sport in some capacity. It’s a sport she never thought she would play, saying that like many kids, she dreamed of going to the Olympics. Yet not in soccer but speed skating, idolizing Catriona Le May Doan, even though Sinclair can’t skate.

She said she never could have dreamed about creating a legacy and only played soccer because her brother did and followed him: “I just played because I loved it and do to this day.”

She said the high of winning Olympic gold at Tokyo would be hard to top, and combined with reaching 40, she had no intention of playing in the 2024 Paris Olympics but was pleased she was able to help the national team qualify this month in the two-game aggregate 4-1 victory over Jamaica.

She wanted to play in the 2023 World Cup last summer in Australia “to give it one more shot and prove to the world Tokyo wasn’t a fluke” and because despite its three Olympic medals, Canada has never been as successful in the World Cup. Canada again wasn’t and was blown out 4-0 by host Australia in being eliminated at the group stage, giving the Canada-Australia games in Langford and B.C. Place the plotline of grudge matches. The Matildas got their Paris Olympics qualifying campaign off to a good start Thursday with a 2-0 victory over Iran.

Sinclair will play one more season in the pro NWSL with the Portland Thorns and said she plans to stay in the sport in some capacity after her playing career.

Sinclair also said she hopes there will eventually be a Canadian domestic women’s pro soccer league the equivalent of the men’s Canadian Premier League, which includes Island-based Pacific FC.

“Hopefully, there’s going to be a [women’s] professional league in the next couple of years in Canada. We need that desperately,” she said.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com