Julia Grosso’s penalty-kick goal against Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl on Friday cemented the Canadian women’s national soccer team into sports history.
The moment elevated Canadian soccer to a station it has never reached before: champions of a major global tournament.
A team of fiercely determined players, from the 20-year-old Grosso all the way to seasoned leaders like 38-year-old captain Christine Sinclair, banded together in belief, in dedication to the game, and to Canadians alike.
They play for a country that needs to reckon with its own history, but they also connect people through soccer.
One of the reasons that this particular team has our hearts is that they fight and leave everything on the pitch. But they do the work, the learning, and the education off the pitch, too.
The Canadian women’s national soccer team (CanWNT) and coaching staff is comprised of players from racialized, gay, non-binary, and transgender communities. The players have not only knelt at games in support of Black Lives Matter, they have spoken publicly about their commitment to anti-racism.
Team Canada forward Jordyn Huitema and her boyfriend, Alphonso Davies, were the targets of vicious racist online abuse after Davies, a soccer player on the men’s national team and with Bayern Munich, posted a photo celebrating his 2020 Champions League win with Huitema.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team participated in the Conquer COVID-19 initiative to provide frontline workers with personal protective equipment.
We watched as they unequivocally supported their teammate Quinn, who came out as trans in September 2020. With this morning’s win, Quinn became the first openly trans and non-binary athlete to win a medal at an Olympics Games.
The undisputed wall of defence in net, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, has been very public about her struggles with depression.
Defensive stalwart Ashley Lawrence runs an organization dedicated to empowering young girls through mentorship and soccer.
Backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod, has been a driving force in advocating for LGTBIQ2S+ rights for athletes in sports not only in Canada, but worldwide.
McLeod and recently retired CanWNT legend Diana Matheson, formed the first Canadian women’s player association in 2016.
This team has fought for labour rights, women’s equal pay and rights, and continue to defend issues of social justice that are often ignored or dismissed by other sports stars.
After the match, Sinclair, the most decorated soccer player in Canadian sports history, implored Canada to support women and girls sports.
“I hope that we'll see some investment in the women's game. I think it's time Canada gets a professional league or some professional teams,” Sinclair said. “And if a gold medal and three Olympic medals doesn't do that nothing will, so I think it's time for Canada to step up."
Even in a long-awaited moment of unadulterated joy, Sinclair reminded the world that this isn’t just about winning; it is about the future and the sustainability of women’s soccer in this country.
If there was a moment to shine a light on her own achievements or heap praise on her deserving teammates, Sinclair decided to humbly call Canada to account.
We use this team to brag and to point to success but where are we really when we do not support a women’s professional league in soccer, basketball or hockey?
Sinclair was not only speaking for soccer players, she was speaking for many athletes, and she was speaking to us: the adoring fans and supporters.
We can’t just watch them and post to social media. We must invest, and then show up for this team and all women's sports. We should pay attention and heed their calls to action.
The Canadian women’s national soccer team members embody what a solid work ethic and team play mean. Their voices and their actions, in addition to their passes and penalty kicks, makes them champions.
This team is honest, candid and Canadians in many margins can see themselves reflected in these players. They embody what we want from sport: glory, solidarity and an indomitable spirit.
Canada showed us they deserve the gold medal. It is our time to show this team that we deserve them.