Christine Sinclair is Canada’s soccer heroine right now. With today being 12/12/12 and her just recently being named the winner of the Lou Marsh Athlete of the Year, a number of people have paid tribute to her by unofficially declaring today Sinclair Day (her jersey number is 12, if you were still wondering about the connection).
Although she was named to the Lou Marsh Award (becoming the first soccer player ever to win the award, and first woman since 2008), there was a lot of disappointment in Canada that she was left off the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or player of the year award. Some in Canada suspect a FIFA conspiracy for Sinclair’s outspoken criticism of the referee in Canada’s controversial 4-3 loss to the US in the Olympic semi-finals and her subsequent 4 game suspension. While that is a possibility, I’m more inclined to agree with her coach, John Herdman. I’ll say that it is a travesty, but likely more due to the fact that so few female players have major name recognition that it’s not surprising when asking a poll of coaches, captains and media from around the world that she was missed out when up against Marta, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Of the three, Marta is certainly the weak link at the international level, but apparently had a great season with her club. As for the other two, both were important parts of the USWNT gold medal winning team, so good for them. Still, it would have been better to recognize Sinclair for her absolute stand out season and the amazing role she played in getting Canada to its bronze medal in London.
Within Canada though, she has received a level of recognition that is rare for soccer players in this country of hockey. Perhaps that is why she was such an easy choice for the Lou Marsh Award. Last month I noted how she ranked equal billing with Steve Stamkos in a Nike campaign and wondered what that meant for the sport of soccer in Canada. The level of attention she can attract between now and the Women’s World Cup in 2015 will do nothing but benefit her sport in Canada.
If women’s soccer can experience such a rise in this country, is it possible for men’s soccer to one day follow? It will be much tougher. Media focus is very set and slow to adapt to changes in sport interests – just turn on any of the Canadian sport channels now and count the seconds until there is a mention of the hockey strike. They have an interest in maintaining the status quo in sporting culture in this country. However, soccer is the largest youth sport in the country now so there is perhaps a generational shift coming in the future. If so, perhaps one day the best male athletes may be encouraged to play soccer than hockey. Sinclair is a phenomenal player no doubt, now having won the CSA player of the year award 10 times in a row, but is it possible that there have been male athletes out there who could dominate Canadian soccer in a similar way, but as a child strapped on skates instead of cleats? We tend to play the sports we follow and follow the sports we play, so until a deeper soccer culture develops in Canada it will be difficult, especially for males, to see a future in soccer when all the reporting focuses on a league that has decided not to play.
Thanks Christine, you are an inspiration to many kids out there. I’m sure that my son is inspired by the CanWNT and their run in the Olympics, just as much as he was inspired by watching the CanMNT in their World Cup Qualifiers this year. Happy Sinclair Day! It’s a nice way to cap an amazing year for soccer in this country.