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Famously private Portland Thorns captain opens up in a new memoir

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Rachel Pick
Christine Sinclair is the captain of the Portland Thorns and the Canadian women's national soccer team. Her new memoir is "Playing the Long Game."

Soccer star Christine Sinclair is kind of the last person you would expect to write a memoir. She doesn’t like talking about herself.

After winning gold in the Tokyo Olympics, she was presented with the opportunity to write a book. She said, “I was immediately, like, no. I’m never doing that.”

She could be forgiven for wanting her accomplishments on the soccer pitch to speak for themselves. After all, she’s won NWSL championships with the Thorns and Olympic gold with the Canadian National Women’s Team.

But she was tired of the story of soccer success being written by men.

“I’m sick of it being male athletes that are the role models that young kids look up to,” Sinclair said. “You know, especially in Canada, there aren’t many female athlete role models. So I… stepped out of the comfort zone and dove in.”

Sinclair spoke with “Morning Edition” host Geoff Norcross about her new book “Playing the Long Game.” Here are some excerpts from their conversation:

Geoff Norcross: “Women’s soccer has become kind of a proxy fight for equality everywhere. And that fight got hot when the U.S. women’s team sued its own federation over pay equity and won. How would you characterize the support your team gets from the Canadian Soccer Association?”

Christine Sinclair: “I have to thank the U.S. players. If it wasn’t for them, our federation wouldn’t have publicly said that the next deal will be an equal pay deal. And that’s what we’re fighting for right now. We’re in negotiations with our federation and our men’s team, and the next deal will be an equal pay deal. But we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Norcross: “One of the reasons you play on the Thorns is because there’s no professional women’s soccer league in Canada. What does that mean for young soccer players there and whatever opportunities might be available?”

Sinclair: “It is, quite honestly, pathetic that there’s no professional environment for women to play in Canada. I think we’re the only country in the top 25 in the world rankings that doesn’t have a professional league. And as a result, players are forced to play in the NWSL in the U.S. or head overseas. Or, unfortunately, many quit. And as a Canadian, I’m worried that we’ll get passed by if things don’t change soon.”

Norcross: “Well, you know, things aren’t all rosy in the American league. It’s working through exceptionally difficult problems right now when it comes to the treatment of its athletes, especially when it comes to harassment and intimidation. I’m wondering what your message might be for young girls who are interested in the sport but may be seeing what the culture is like.”

Sinclair: “I think it’s important for young girls to know that this isn’t a Portland Thorns problem. This isn’t an NWSL problem. It’s not a women’s soccer problem. It’s a cultural problem. This is how women are treated around the world. We had brave women come out and step forward and bring this to light. I know here in Portland, positive changes have been made, but there’s still more to be done.”

Norcross: “Let’s talk about the NWSL Championship game. You played 73 minutes in that game. The Thorns won their third championship. How did that game feel to you on the ground?”

Sinclair: “I’ve been a part of the Thorns for 10 years. I won the first championship in Portland and the one last month felt like how women’s soccer should be. That’s the stage that this league deserves to be shown, on a prime-time major network. And then to be able to represent Portland on that stage, we played very well. I honestly never thought we were going to lose that game.”

Norcross: “You are the world’s all-time leader in international goals, male or female. You’ve won three Olympic medals, one of them gold. You’ve played in multiple World Cup matches. You’ve committed to returning to the Thorns next season, which is great news. What goals do you have left?”

Sinclair: “Yeah, well, there’s still a little bit of unfinished business on the soccer field to be done. Canada (has) been very successful in Olympic games. World Cups haven’t always gone the way we would have liked. So there’s a World Cup next summer. So that’s the goal, give everything for that. And then we’ll see what happens when I am done playing, I’ll definitely stay involved in the game. I don’t see myself leaving Portland. This sport has given me so much, has been my life since I was four. And yeah, when I’m done playing, I’m not going to walk away.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the whole conversation.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Portland Thorns forward Christine Sinclair walks on stage at Providence Park Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, to cheers. A crowd gathered at the stadium, to celebrate the Thorns' third NWSL championship title.
Alex Hasenstab /
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Portland Thorns forward Christine Sinclair walks on stage at Providence Park Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, to cheers. A crowd gathered at the stadium to celebrate the Thorns' third NWSL championship title.

Geoff Norcross