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Sophie Schmidt set for Canada farewell alongside longtime friend Christine Sinclair

LANGFORD, B.C. — Sophie Schmidt says she has not thought about the emotions that undoubtedly will be unleashed when she pulls on her Canadian jersey for the last time at Tuesday's friendly against Australia in Vancouver.
Canada goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo trains with the Canadian women’s soccer team at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C. on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 ahead of Friday's international friendly against Australia.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

LANGFORD, B.C. — Sophie Schmidt says she has not thought about the emotions that undoubtedly will be unleashed when she pulls on her Canadian jersey for the last time at Tuesday's friendly against Australia in Vancouver.

"I hope I'm not a big blubbery mess," the veteran midfielder said cheerfully Thursday. "But it'll definitely be a special occasion and I'm just so grateful to be able to share that moment with Sincy and Erin … It will definitely be a special moment for myself, for the team, but also for the country. I'm looking forward to it."

Schmidt, who has 224 caps to her credit, will join captain Christine Sinclair and goalkeeper Erin McLeod in the spotlight at B.C. Place Stadium. The game marks Sinclair's international swansong while the 40-year-old McLeod, who will not add to her 119 caps but will instead be a spectator, announced her international retirement in January.

Schmidt had been scheduled just to appear in the Vancouver game but was summoned for Friday's series opener against the Matildas in Langford after midfielder Julia Grosso was injured playing for Juventus.

The 35-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., was on a road trip driving back from Houston, where she plays for the NWSL Dash, when coach Bev Priestman called.

So Schmidt arrived in camp with her dogs Leia, a Goldendoodle, and Oats, a rescue who is "a bit of a mutt,", in tow.

"Luckily we're staying in a dog-friendly hotel," said Schmidt.

Schmidt has long been part of the glue of the Canadian women's team. 

"Sophie is one of the most genuine, real people that I've ever met," said striker Janine Beckie, who is in camp while rehabbing a knee injury. "It's been so nice to have her back in this environment. I think she just brings in an experience, a level of calm. Her vibe is always so good. She's so positive. And at the same time she's still a fantastic soccer player.

"So to have her back on the pitch I know for the players that are playing right now, that's so amazing. Her character and personality in camp has definitely been missed, I know, by everyone."

Schmidt, Sinclair and the Canadian team trained in the rain at Starlight Stadium on Thursday.

Schmidt's departure from the international game was sudden and emotional.

In February on the eve of the SheBelieves Cup, as tension between Canada Soccer and the women's team grew over labour talks, Schmidt announced her intention to retire from international football after the World Cup in the summer.

"I'm angry, I'm frustrated, appalled and heartbroken,'' Schmidt said at the time. 

Schmidt, one of the Canadian team's player representatives, had planned to quit on the spot and asked to fly home but was asked to sleep on it by Priestman.

An emotional Schmidt, who said she was being "rocked to my core by the situations that we're currently in,'' said Sinclair convinced her to stay and continue the fight.

"She talked me off the ledge,'' said Schmidt, who has not played for Canada since the 4-0 loss to co-host Australia on July 31 that ended Canada's campaign at the World Cup.

Schmidt does not regret her decision to call time on her international career.

"It was always kind of in my mind to retire after the World Cup and just kind of how things escalated so quickly with the CSA (Canada Soccer) and stuff, I just pulled the trigger on it. … It is the right decision for me personally and I think it's time to give the opportunity to somebody else to forge their career with the national team."

Like Sinclair, who plans to play one more season with the Portland Thorns, Schmidt continues to play club football.

After playing in Sweden and Germany, she has been with Houston since 2018 and is under contract with the NWSL team through 2024.

And while Canada is due to play its group games at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup in Houston in February, Schmidt says her retirement remains set.

"I will be there in the stands supporting, the first one there," she said. "It will be exciting to have them there in my backyard."

Schmidt, who captained Canada at the 2006 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Russia, made her senior debut April 19, 2005, as a 16-year-old in a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. She scored the first of her 20 goals for Canada eight days later in a 3-2 win over France.

It's fitting that Schmidt and the 40-year-old Sinclair go out together. They have long been roommates on the road with Canada, although here the players have separate rooms.

"But we hang out a lot," said Schmidt, who became Sinclair's roommate after goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc retired.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press