Captain Christine Sinclair refused to point the finger at Canada Soccer in the immediate aftermath of the Canadians’ early exit from the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
But the world’s all-time leading scorer sounded a warning after the Olympic champion’s tournament-ending 4-0 loss to Australia on Monday.
“Look we’ve been battling our federation for support but I can’t put this on (Canada Soccer). There’s 23 players out there and staff and we didn’t get it done tonight.” she said. “I think more of it is like a wake-up call for our federation — the lack of a professional league, the lack of support for our youth national teams.
“I think you’re just going to continue to see teams reach our level, surpass us, whatever you want to call it if things don’t change.”
Both the Canadian women and men have been battling with Canada Soccer over a new labour agreement with the women calling for equal pay and support as the men. The women announced during the tournament that an interim deal had been struck covering compensation for the World Cup and 2023 but said there are “many more important items” that still have to be settled.
The men say they have yet to receive compensation from last year’s World Cup in Qatar,
Sinclair made a point of collecting a few blades of grass from Melbourne Rectangular Stadium before heading to the dressing room, a souvenir from her sixth World Cup.
Asked what her next move is, the 40-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., replied: “I have no idea.”
Sinclair was calm in defeat but emotion showed when asked about her teammate and close friend Sophie Schmidt, who had previously announced she was retiring from international football after the tournament. Sinclair said she hoped Schmidt, 35, could be convinced to take part “at least” in the September Olympic qualifying series against Jamaica.
Seventh-ranked Canada is scheduled to play Sept. 22 in Jamaica before hosting the 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz in Toronto four days later with the last CONCACAF berth in the Paris Olympics on the line.
At 40 years 38 days at the start of the World Cup, Sinclair was the second-oldest player at the tournament (behind Nigeria’s Onome Ebi’s 40 years 73 days).
Sinclair earned caps No. 324, 325 and 326, starting the tournament-opening scoreless draw with Nigeria, helping Canada rally to beat Ireland 2-1 coming off the bench to open the second half, and being one of four tactical substitutions exiting at halftime of the Australia game.
Sinclair had a penalty kick saved in the Nigeria game, which prevented her from becoming the first player — male or female — to score in six World Cups.
Asked about Sinclair’s future with the team, Canada coach Bev Priestman replied: “I don’t know.”
“I think the reality is with Sinc is you only talk one game at a time,” she added. “I’d love for those players (Sinclair and Schmidt) to be part of our Olympic qualifying … I think Canada deserves, they deserve to get this team to the Olympics on home soil, That’s what I’ll be pushing them. The whole conversation I had with every veteran was how crucial September was.
“I’m obviously still processing (the game) even here. (That) you say ‘Could this be Christine Sinclair’s last game’ breaks my heart.”
As for the performance against Australia, Sinclair said the one thing Canada didn’t want was to concede an early goal.
“With the home fans, we knew they’d get momentum, energy from that. They scored in the (ninth) minute and we weren’t able to recover from that.”
Sinclair said the tournament has already shown that “teams came ready,” pointing to No. 25 Colombia’s 2-1 upset win over No. 2 Germany on Sunday.
“It happens. It’s exciting for the sport. The catchers are catching up.”