Soccer connection at GFI

There is a fascinating connection between the 2015 World Cup and this year’s GFI.

Christine Sinclair

The Women’s World Cup of Soccer, being held in Canada, commenced on June 6 and wraps up on the same day as the Grand Forks International baseball tournament final. There is a fascinating connection  between the 2015 World Cup and this year’s GFI.

Christine Sinclair, sister of Burnaby Bulldogs Manager Mike Sinclair, and Sydney Leroux, daughter of Kamloops Sun Devils Head Coach Ray Chadwick, are both participating in the World Cup. Sinclair is a celebrated player for Canada and Leroux is a star with the United States team.

The two countries have a very strong rivalry in women’s soccer. At the London Summer Olympics in 2012 the Americans won the gold medal and Canada the bronze.

Both of these incredibly gifted athletes also played baseball in their earlier years. In fact, Sinclair’s first love was baseball and she still wears No. 12 on the soccer pitch in honour of her favourite player, the former Toronto Blue Jay Roberto Alomar. Leroux, who was born in Surrey, B.C. and has dual citizenship, played baseball for the Whalley Little League team for several years.

Later Leroux would attend UCLA and Sinclair the University of Portland; both were goal-scoring machines during their respective college careers and recipients of several honours.

Sinclair set an all-time NCAA Division 1 goal-scoring record with 39 goals during her senior year at Portland; Leroux was “one of the most dangerous forwards in the world at the Under 20 Level.”

A Canadian Press article written by Lori Ewing referred to the early years in the Sinclair home where the brother and sister duo were both really competitive. Mike comments, “In our neighbourhood we were always playing soccer, baseball, football and she (Christine) was always right in the middle of it.”

Emerging from those fun-filled days in a Burnaby, B.C. neighbourhood is Canada’s most decorated women’s soccer player. In 2012 she received the Lou Marsh Award which is presented to Canada’s top athlete. In 2013, Sinclair was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Her brother Mike has been part of the Burnaby Bulldogs team for many years. Last year they became the first Canadian team since 1976 to win the GFI. The Bulldogs won the Canadian Senior Men’s Championship in 2010 and six times have won provincial titles.

Leroux’s mother, Sandi Leroux, played third base for the Canadian national softball team which won a bronze medal at the 1987 Pan American Games. Her father Ray, who was born in Durham, North Carolina, made it to the major leagues as a pitcher with the California Angels. He has been the head coach of the Thompson Rivers University baseball team since the team’s inception in 2003. In the summer he coaches the Kamloops Sun Devils.

No doubt, as Mike and Ray over the next few weeks prepare their respective baseball teams for the 34th edition of North America’s richest invitational tournament in Grand Forks, they will be keeping a close eye on the World Cup results, in particular their loved ones, Christine and Sydney, two of the greatest women soccer players in the world.