Save the WPS: An interview with Christine Sinclair
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • December 02, 2011 @ 10:13am
Western New York Flash forward Christine Sinclair closed the WPS’ third season on a high note, potting a goal in regulation time and burying her shootout attempt. Named Finals MVP after the 1-1 (5-4 on penalty kicks) win for the Flash, Sinclair and her WNY teammates were poised to defend their title in the upcoming 2012 season.
Then it all changed—a decision by the United States Soccer Federation’s Board of Directors—expected to come next Monday—will determine whether or not the WPS will carry on for a fourth season. There are currently only five teams in the WPS, and the USSF, which granted the league a waiver to operate below the mandated eight total teams in ‘10 and ‘11, seems reluctant to allow them to operate at the current number.
Sinclair spoke with Buffalo.com Thursday about her perspective and future plans.
Buffalo.com: What has the value of Women’s Professional Soccer been for you?
Christine Sinclair: “It’s first of all tremendous for me and my development because I’m a different player now than I was three years ago because of the quality of players you play with and against everyday—you don’t get that opportunity very often. I’m a foreigner, but I can see how [the WPS] can benefit U.S. Soccer—it gives a couple hundred players the chance to play day in and day out. For those players that might not be at the national team level yet, it gives them a place to play and train every day so they can still carry on their soccer career and, at some point, maybe make the national team. As a foreigner, I think it’s incredible to see, and I think the WPS could definitely benefit U.S. Soccer if it continues.”
Buffalo.com: As a Canadian international, has it been a shock to see how U.S. Soccer has been standing firmly behind a by-law?
Sinclair: “It was a bit of a shock to me, but at the same time, not unexpected in women’s soccer. [The sport] doesn’t get the attention that men’s soccer does anywhere in the world, and it’s a shame because the WPS could help the U.S. women’s team reach new levels—it’s a bigger picture thing, it might not be this year or next year, but it’s years down the road. It’s a shame that [U.S. Soccer] doesn’t see that that.”
Buffalo.com: Was there really a noticeable surge in the WPS’ momentum and exposure after the United States’ international success in the World Cup?
Sinclair: “Oh, for sure. I think the attendance numbers speak for themselves—pre- and post-World Cup. A different level of attention was given to the women’s game. We all thought that, as well as the U.S. team did, it was exactly what the league needed for survival—hopefully it didn’t come too late.”
Buffalo.com: If the WPS isn’t sanctioned, have you thought about your course of action?
Sinclair: “Like a lot of players, I’m sure I’ll head overseas to play. It’s a shame, but those leagues over there are stable, and for international players heading over there, you can make a pretty good living. I think that’d be the next option. I don’t really want to move to Europe, but I might have to.”
Buffalo.com: It sounds like you’re in a helpless situation. You’re at the mercy of an owner stepping up [and becoming that sixth team]. Do you feel any helplessness or frustration that these things are taking place out of your hands?
Sinclair: “As players, every time we step on the field we do our best and try to put on a show and try to bring the fans back—but with things like this, we have absolutely no control over it. We just hope that someone will step forward and risk losing some money—like people do all the time.”
Buffalo.com: Aside from the petition by Flash player Alexandra Sahlen (which has over 35,000 signatures), is there any other way you’d suggest fans to show their support?
Sinclair: “The fans, like the players, are in the same boat—we’re kind of helpless. We see it on Facebook and Twitter—‘Save the WPS’—but realistically, that’s reaching a limited number of people. I don’t know what else we can do—that’s the business we’re in, and unfortunately we have no say in it.”
Featured photo courtesy of WNY Flash Facebook page / Mark Novak.