Christine Sinclair probably doesn't care. And her coach says so. She has never been one to hog the spotlight, or even attract it. It has just come to her, naturally, her charisma pulling it in like some paper clip in the orbit of a magnet. Sinclair is the type of person who is "focused on just letting her football do the talking," Canadian women's soccer coach John Herdman told the Canadian Press on Thursday. "She's a type of player that will probably just shrug her shoulders and say, 'Oh well, when's my next game?'"
But the cause for such a shrug of shoulders is much more contentious than Herdman lets on. Sinclair was left off of FIFA's three-person shortlist of players. Americans Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan and Brazilian and six-time winner Marta filled the blanks instead.
Soccer's governing body reached out to the coaches and captains of each national team and one journalist per country to vote on the award once FIFA and famous soccer magazine France Football ironed a preliminary list of 10 candidates to choose from. And the majority thought Sinclair was not fit to be on the final catalogue of three.
Now, FIFA is as pure and wholesome and obedient as Hester Prynne. But the level of indignity here should not be exaggerated. There is no scheme at play, no latent corruption, no attempt to dishonour her or Canadian soccer. Those who did not vote for her, though, suffer from a chronic case of ignorance.
Herdman questions the "global awareness" of women's soccer, in a year, really, where there has been no shortage of play on the world stage. And if these voters weren't aware, they were because they were simply not paying attention. The Olympics were the showpiece sporting event of 2012, and women's soccer, as FIFA boss Sepp Blatter -- who rarely says anything right -- correctly tweeted, "was at its best this year."
And Sinclair delivered the year's best singular performance, which, even if all for naught, cannot be so easily overlooked. She scored a hat trick -- the most Canadian of accomplishments -- in a 4-3 loss to the U.S. in the semi-final of the competition, a contentious game blown open after Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen awarded a dubious penalty to the Americans. The penalty, essentially for a delay of game call on goalkeeper Erin McLeod, gave the U.S. a tying goal, and Morgan eventually scored the winner.
But that game defined Sinclair as much as it angered her. She criticized the referee. And she was suspended four games for "displaying unsporting behaviour towards match officials after the match," FIFA said in a release. She regretted nothing. The uproar over all of Sinclair's injustices has never stemmed from her.
If anything, she has been the one trying to diffuse the commotion. It is us, the Canadians who were so inspired to care about her this summer, that feel the most indignant. The racket is all ours, and it puts on display how much more passionate about our own brand of soccer Canadians are -- mostly because of Sinclair. She scored an Olympic record six goals, won the Golden Boot and led Canada to its first medal in women's soccer in more than 70 years. She captured Canadians' imaginations like Copperfield did to his audiences.
And it was magical. She cried. She yelled. She stood up for teammates. She carried a load that, let's face it, is not so easily hitched to one person. Ask Landon Donovan: the American soccer player and ambassador, with L.A. Galaxy and playing in what may be his last game in the MLS Cup on Saturday, is thinking about retiring at only 30 years old mainly because of the rigours of leading a national soccer program for years and years.
Sinclair has played for over a decade, and only now, after 190 games for Canada, at 29, does she finally have the fruits to show for her labour.
She has scored 143 international goals, and sits third all time in the charts. But she did not just score them. Along the way, she summoned the essence of the Canadian spirit: defiance, grit, perseverance. And when she leads, she doesn't do so alone. When she carried the Canadian flag at the Olympics' closing ceremony, her teammates, with little flags of their own, were right behind her.
She has influenced a whole generation of girls and boys who want to achieve what she has done. There is no trophy or accolade for that, none that can measure her effect on Canadian soccer -- or even on the world. "That Canadian girl," one shoe salesman told me in a little shop on Oxford Street in London some months ago, "she is something else. I have never seen someone play like her."
So no, FIFA, your awards probably mean nothing to her. Hand them out to whomever you like.