Val's Book Reviews

Playing The Long Game: A Memoir

by Christine Sinclair (with Stephen Brunt)

Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2023
$23.00 /  9781039004627

Christine Sinclair admits at the beginning of her book that she rarely talks about herself because she is not comfortable doing so. She writes: “Talking about myself has never been something I’ve liked to do.”

Sinclair’s comfort zone is on the soccer field where her talents have shown up for many years and speak for themselves. However, she now feels it is the right time to talk as “an opening to push for change” or “an opportunity to eradicate the fake distinction between women’s and men’s sports.” So, she is now talking, but it is mostly about her career and what is at stake for women in sports in the future.

Playing The Long Game, the book she has written with award-winning writer, Stephen Brunt, will not tell her readers much about Sinclair herself. She does, however, share a little about growing up in South Burnaby, British Columbia, where she was born and raised. She didn’t know much about her dad’s side of the family as he was estranged from them, so it was mostly their mother’s side of the family (the Gants) that Sinclair and her brother, Michael, knew and spent time with. “The Gants are a big, old-fashioned, cheesy family like the kind you used to see on T.V.”  she writes.

One thing is obvious, though. Christine and Michael were both very athletic from a young age and the sports they indulged in were always totally supported by their parents and extended family. She writes that “pretty much everything we did included sports.” Even when they went to the grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner, they usually took a change of clothes so that afterwards they could go to the park to play ball or hockey in the back alley. She thinks it is a shame that today kids are on their iPads and phones all the time. She and her brother grew up in a different atmosphere and even as they grew older, whenever they met, they usually ended up playing a game of some sort. Although she played a variety of sports, soccer was always her first love.

Christine Sinclair has chosen now to express there “is an opportunity to eradicate the fake distinction between women’s and men’s sports.”

Christine is still very close to her brother and now, as adults, she is also close with his wife and their two daughters. She adores her nieces. “I never wanted kids of my own,” she writes, “so hanging out with them and yet being able to hand them back, after spoiling them rotten and then being able to say ‘Here, you can deal with the sugar high,’ – that’s great.”

From then on in her book, this very private sports celebrity, concentrates on sharing her career and, for soccer fans around the world, this book will enlighten and be much enjoyed. It shows the importance of working together as a team—a good analogy for life as well as sports. Sinclair takes her readers through the strategy of her games from being long-time forward and Captain of Canada’s national women’s soccer team and the top-ranked Portland Thorns Football Club in the National Women’s Soccer League, to eventually her Olympic Games where she became an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time bronze medalist, CONCACAF champion, and a 14-time winner of the Canadian Soccer Player of the Year. Not too shabby for a young woman from Burnaby, British Columbia.

It was a journey of big wins and painful losses. The losses she describes were not only on the soccer pitch. She writes with candour of the pain of losing her father to cancer, and later losing her mother who passed away as Christine was writing this book.

There is much to admire about Christine Sinclair. Not only is she the top international scorer of all time, but she is well-liked and respected around the world. She is the heart of any team she played on.

Towards the end of her book, Sinclair writes: “Women’s soccer has changed so much over the past twenty years. It has grown by leaps and bounds. When I first joined the national team, there was a huge gap between the top teams and everyone else. . . now the gap has closed almost completely.”

Christine Sinclair wrote Playing The Long Game with award-winning writer, Stephen Brunt

She explains: “not everyone is just as fit as the top players. Everyone is just as fast and athletic. And the game is truly becoming what it should be.”

And she adds: “My fear now is that we (in Canada) will be surpassed by countries that support their youth teams, support their national women’s teams, and also support professional women’s leagues.” That is what scares her.

The postscript in her book is devoted entirely to her mother who, because of delays caused by Covid, did not live long enough to be a part of a celebration ceremony in April 2022, as part of the national team’s Celebration Tour. There Christine was honoured for all her many achievements as a superb athlete and soccer player. But the best part of that night for Christine was having her two nieces with her who know everything about her as a person in addition to her many soccer triumphs.

On such occasions, they always say to her “If only those people knew the real you. . .”  – and that means everything to her.

Although she was born and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Christine now lives in Portland, Oregon. Her book will undoubtedly inspire young girls all around the world to be the best they can be in whatever path in life they choose.

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