The Lyon star is one of the biggest names in football, but she won’t be at the Women’s World Cup this summer with Norway
It was a landmark occasion for both Ada Hegerberg herself as well as woman’s football when she won the inaugural Ballon d’Or trophy awarded to a woman in December 2018.
Since breaking through at Lyon, she has emerged as one of the most lethal and prolific footballers in women’s football, already racking up close to 250 goals at just 23 years of age – not only leading her club to domestic and European success, but picking up a handful of individual accolades along the way.
With the Women’s World Cup set to take place this summer in France, however, Hegerberg is a notable omission from the Norway national team after she made the decision to quit international football in 2017.
But why has she decided to retire from national team duty, especially ahead of a World Cup summer?
Hegerberg is a striker for Olympique Lyonnais and was the first ever female recipient of the Ballon d’Or, which she won in 2018 alongside the likes of the male winner Luka Modric and Kopa Trophy recipient Kylian Mbappe.
She is a gifted and naturally skilled footballer, having already won a hat-trick of Champions League trophies at the age of 23, as well as netting 33 goals in 21 games in the 2017-18 campaign to help Lyon to a fourth straight league title – in addition to breaking the record of the number of goals scored in a single Champions League season.
She has already scored almost 300 career goals since making her professional debut for Norwegian side Kolbotn in 2010, and it is safe to say that she still has her very best years to come after already having achieved her career highs.
Before she decided to distance herself from national team duties with Norway in 2017, she netted 38 goals for her national side in 66 appearances, winning the award of Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year in 2016. In doing so, she was the first woman to win the award in 20 years.
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Hegerberg made history when she was crowned as the first female winner of the Ballon d’Or, but her crowning moment will forever remembered with the small footnote that came with a controversial remark made to her by DJ Martin Solveig, who was a host on the night.
On a night where all the attention should have remained on Hegerberg’s victory, it came with the footnote of the DJ’s crass remark that seemed to reduce her to a mere object – instead of the professional athlete and skilled footballer that she is.
After receiving her award, the DJ has asked her to ‘twerk’ onstage, which prompted Hegerberg to decline his request and leave the stage.
It was an inappropriate remark to make for many reasons, the major being that it could be construed as an incident of sexual harassment, but it is one such example that proves how far women’s football still has to go to earn the same respect the men’s game.
Speaking after the incident, Hegerberg insisted that she did not feel offended by the remark, and put forward her disappointment and not being asked a more relevant question:
“It depends how you look at the situation,” Hegerberg stated at the time. “I didn’t feel in an awkward position.
“Obviously, the question could’ve been asked in another way. When you’re on stage you want to get questions about how you feel winning such an award.”
After an onslaught of social media criticism condemning the DJ, he delivered an attempt at an apology on Twitter, stating: “I explained to [Hegerberg] and she told me she understood it was a joke. Nevertheless, my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly, congratulations to Ada.”
Despite being the face of Norwegian football after coming up at Toppserien side Kolbotn in 2011 and breaking the record as the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the league’s history, aged 16, Hegerberg has decided to distance herself from the Norway national team since 2017.
At that time, Hegerberg – who was a full Norway international with 66 caps and 38 goals to her name – became so disillusioned with the way that women’s football was being treated in her home country that she decided to hang up her boots for her national side.
Following Norway’s exit from the Euro 2017, Hegerberg stated that she would not be representing her country any longer, and with just six months to go until the Women’s World Cup in France, she doesn’t seem likely to reverse her decision in time for the competition.
She previously stated that the ‘fundamental’ reason for her happiness with her national side was outside the responsibility of coach Martin Sjogren and mostly with Norway’s male-dominated football federation NFF.
“There are several changes that would need to be made before I’d evaluate returning,” Hegerberg stated in December.
“It’s not about me having to change my opinion. It’s about what they (NFF) must do to improve themselves as both a national team and a football federation, first and foremost. They still have a long way to go. There’s not more to say from my side.”
2017 was a landmark year for women’s football after they stood up for parity with their male counterparts on the international stage to campaign for equal pay. Norway was a pioneer in advocating for equal pay for their women’s team to be on the same pay grade as their male teams, after the Norwegian Football Association (NFF) and the country’s players’ association (NISO) signed an agreement for equal wages.
Though Norway was successful in their campaign, it wasn’t enough for Hegerberg, who remains frustrated with the general problems at large regarding women’s football – as well as the men’s – and how it continues to be treated and handled in her home country.
“It’s not always about the money,” she told reporters.
“It’s about preparing, taking action, professionality, really clear points I’ve put quite directly to them when I made the decision.
“I wanted it to be a clear case, but it got quite messy in the media unfortunately. That was not my intention at all.
“I know what I want and know my values and therefore it’s easy to take hard choices when you know what the ambitions are and what values you stand for, so it’s all about staying true to yourself, be yourself.”
When asked if being able to play in the World Cup for Norway would be enough for her to return to the national side, she responded: “This isn’t about being tempted. It’s about a decision I’ve made that is independent of whether the national team wins matches.”
Lise Klaveness, a lawyer, football commentator and former Norway international, has since taken over as director of the NFF. Though Hegerberg has stated that she has had ‘good conversations’ with Klaveness, her decision has not changed.
“Ada has made a well-grounded choice about not playing for the national team,” Klaveness said shortly after Hegerberg won her award. “It’s a sad situation we would rather not have.”