Ballon d'Or winner, Ada Hegerberg's stance to sit out the 2019 World Cup a huge leap towards gender equality in football?
Ballon d’Or and activism.
Ada Hegerberg is a fascinating figure on and off the football pitch. The five-time Champions League winner has made headlines recently after it was confirmed that she will not be playing at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. The 23-year-old Lyon forward quit the Norwegian national team in 2017 citing her grievance at the unequal treatment of the women’s team and their male counterparts as her reason for abandoning her national duty.
According to Norwegian head coach, Martin Sjörgen, there have been talks with the Ballon d’Or winner to try and convince her to take part in the tournament, talks that have apparently bared no fruit. Hegerberg has maintained her stance she left the national team in 2017 even after a historic salary review by the Norwegian football association saw the women’s team receive equal pay for the first time in their history.
“Can you twerk?”
A question we probably wouldn’t expect to be asked at football’s biggest night to the woman who has just made history, winning the first ever Women’s Ballon d’Or. When the French DJ, Martin Solveig asked Ada Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk, it was probably one of the cringiest moments in football history. It is an understatement to say that the joke did not go down well with Hegerberg herself and other pundits including tennis champion, Andy Murray who furiously reacted to the infamous questioning, calling out the double standards in the sporting world.
The Gender Pay Gap in football
Hegerberg could not hide her frustration at that moment and she has never been the one to shy away from speaking out and making a stand. Her absence that the World Cup is the biggest statement she can make in protest of the treatment of women’s national teams.
The US National Women’s team have been vocal over the years, particularly former captain Hope Solo. The retired goalkeeper has publically supported Hegerberg’s decision to boycott the World Cup stating that she respected her decision remarking, "We're not going to create the change that we want to see in women's football until people like Ada take a stance,” in a recent interview.
A lawsuit has been filed against US Soccer Federation by the entire US women’s team. The lawsuit is disputing the pay structure and other incentives that the US man’s team receive that the women are not privileged to, including the charting of private jets for matches among other special treatments.
Similar complaints have been launched by the Super Falcons and Banyana Banyana who despite outperforming their male counterparts in tournaments, have continued to be paid significantly less for their efforts. These players are undervalued and the defence for this is usually the popularity of the men’s game compared to that of women. It was just last year when the first ever Ballon d’Or was awarded to a woman which shows that women’s football is coming to the forefront, only now. The times are definitely changing and with this kind of stand by the world’s best female player, Ada Hegerberg, the message is loud and clear; give women the respect they deserve.
As Hegerberg continues to make headlines for her decision to sit out of France 2019, the conversation will inevitably lead back to the state of women's football and what needs to be done to rectify the situation to balance the scale for women in football. This could possibly be one of the tipping points for equality in football.