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Canada bids emotional farewell to ‘irreplaceable’ Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair retired from international soccer on Tuesday. (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images for Football Australia)

Christine Sinclair, the all-time leading goalscorer in international soccer, said goodbye to the international game on Tuesday.

She made her 331st international appearance, 23 years after her first for the Canadian senior national team. For one night only, the stadium was renamed Christine Sinclair Place.

Afterward, Sinclair told TSN that the night was “perfect,” as Canada took home a 1-0 win over Australia.

Also retiring was Sophie Schmidt, who played in 225 games for Canada. Sinclair warmed up in Schmidt’s jersey to honor her teammate.

“Nobody knew she was going to put Sophie’s shirt on, and to me, in that moment that absolutely epitomizes her,” manager Bev Priestman said of Sinclair. “She knows the world’s watching and she doesn’t want her teammate to get forgotten. And she put Sophie’s shirt on, albeit her shoulders are a bit broader than Sophie’s, so it didn’t fit so well. But I thought that was absolute class, and that would’ve made Sophie’s night.”

“I think tonight was incredible,” Canada forward Cloe Lacasse said. “Of course it was so emotional going out there as the starting 11, having Sinclair lead us out. I think everyone had tears in their eyes, but being able to end their careers in this incredible place, Christine Sinclair place, with a victory — I mean, I think it’s a dream for those two and they honestly deserve it more than anyone else.”

In the 12th minute, the crowd gave Sinclair a standing ovation.

“I’ve told her she’s absolutely irreplaceable,” Priestman said, “and forever this program will be better for her.”

While Sinclair will still play a little while longer with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, it was a fitting send off on the international stage for one of the game’s greatest, who won a gold medal with Canada at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I mean honestly, just joy,” she said when asked to sum up the evening. “I’ve done everything I can on this national team. I’m 100 percent satisfied and content. And to go out with a win in front of my friends, in front of my family. Honestly, it’s been the perfect night.”