VANCOUVER — The night after her international farewell game, Christine Sinclair was back at B.C. Place Stadium — this time for an evening with family, friends and sponsors to mark the launch of her foundation.
Part of the stadium field was turned into a dining area with the scoreboard lowered to better serve as a giant monitor to show Sinclair's career highlights. Around the stadium, signs saying "Thank you, Sinc" and "The Greatest of Them All" flashed on and off.
Wednesday's affair had the feel of a large wedding, with an open bar and DJ complete with shuffleboard and foosball tables. Thanks to Nike, guests were able to get on-the-spot custom-made Sinclair hoodies or T-shirts.
Having closed the door on her international career, Sinclair can now focus on playing for the Portland Thorns — and helping others.
While the former Canada captain has said she can see herself as an assistant coach down the line, the 40-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., has already taken steps to offer a helping hand to those in need outside of soccer via the Christine Sinclair Foundation.
The foundation is "dedicated to inspiring and empowering girls with goals."
"I think there was along the way (in my career) a realization that sport has put me in a very unique position, " Sinclair said during a "fireside chat" with former Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe when asked what helped her become more vocal and speak out for causes.
"It's put us all in a very unique position that, for some reason, people want to hear from us and listen to us. I have no idea why," she added with a laugh. "And that what I do on the field can be only a small amount of what I can achieve."
Sinclair pointed to her work as a spokeswoman for A&W Canada's "Annual Burgers to Beat MS Campaign" to help raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Her late mother Sandra had MS.
"I remember having the conversation, speaking about MS, with my mom and asking her permission to tell her story," she said. "That was a big moment for me to step out of my shyness and try to make the world a little bit better."
The dinner was billed as a "casual sneakers and sweater-themed affair" with current and retired players, national team coaches and staff, corporate partners and "other special guests."
Net proceeds from the party go to the foundation, which has already raised more than $250,000 with Sinclair's sponsors like CIBC stepping up with a donation of $190,000.
A table of 10 at the fundraiser cost $6,500 with a single ticket at $625. Some 300 people were expected with Canada Soccer, Canadian Soccer Business, B.C. Soccer, CIBC, A&W, MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Canada, the Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Canucks and Nike among those taking part.
Other partners like Visa and Frito Lay are contributing by helping sponsor the dinner or making a donation.
"The foundation will help level the playing field so that girls and women can reimagine what’s possible and pursue their ambitions," according to a release from Envision Sports & Entertainment, the sports marketing and sponsorship agency that represents Sinclair.
Sinclair, who leaves the international game with a world-record 190 goals in 331 senior appearances, is partnering with the Vancouver Foundation which funds charities and non-profit organizations across British Columbia.
Sinclair has taken up causes in the past, partnering with the Canadian Women's Foundation during the pandemic on Show Up For Girl, a program designed "to make sure girls in Canada of all backgrounds and identities get the support they need through the pandemic."
Envision president Brian Levine's rationale to Sinclair for going a step further and establishing the foundation was simple.
"People want to support you. And by (having them) supporting you, you're supporting others," he recalled telling her.
Guests at Wednesday's launch entered the field via a "Memory Lane," complete with Sinclair memorabilia, from the bespoke Nike boots she wore in her farewell game — a 1-0 win over Australia before 48,112 on Tuesday — to the jersey she wore when she set the world scoring record in January 2020.
Toronto FC coach John Herdman, who coached Sinclair with the Canadian women, spoke before Labbe and Sinclair took the stage. Canada and Portland teammate Janine Beckie and Portland GM Karina LeBlanc, a former roommate of Sinclair's with the national team, also came on stage to swap stories.
Canada coach Bev Priestman was also in the crowd. As was Canada Soccer president Charmaine Crooks and acting general secretary Jason deVos.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press