“The Heroine in Budapest” fighting for equality in Football
Female football’s greatest showpiece event will kick off in seven days’ time and a certain Norwegian star will sadly not be taking part, not because she isn’t good enough(in fact, she is officially the best player in female football) but because she has chosen to make a stance and fight, and fighting she has been doing. Ada Martine Stolsmo Hegerberg will not be at the Women’s World Cup this summer in France because she walked away from Norway’s national team after growing increasingly frustrated with its set-up and what she called a “lack of respect” for female players.
Hegerberg has worked her way to the top of the game, and with the audience and attention that has brought her, she has decided to make a change and speak out for female football. In truth, who better to point out the growing divide between male and female football than Hegerberg. She is at the moment a household name in the game, she is the star of the all-conquering Lyon team, and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world and is an outspoken proponent of respect, equality and fairness in the game. “The heroine in Budapest” as she was called by the Telegraph after turning Barcelona’s dream champions league final into a nightmare is a true hero both with and without the ball. In an infamous incident that happened at the last Ballon d’Or ceremony, Hegerberg was asked to twerk by the host DJ for the night Martin Solveig, she said “no” and seemed to attempt to leave the stage before reluctantly agreeing to dance to another song with the DJ. The incident generated widespread comments and condemnations from all corners with Tennis star Andy Murray labeling it “another example of the ridiculous sexism in sport”. It is difficult to ever imagine fellow awardees that night, Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe ever suffering such fate. Thanks to Ada’s class echoed in the manner in which she handled the incident, she has laid a beautiful example of how to tackle these issues. Solveig, who claimed it was just a joke, has since apologized publicly for his actions.
Having been capped 66 times for her country, she has refused to play since 2017 in protest against how women’s football is treated by the FA in her home country of Norway. She is simply a hero and an inspiration to many both, on and off the pitch, and also an inspiration to those of us who seek to see both males and females treated with fairness and afforded equal opportunities.
Ada Hegerberg scored a hat-trick in 16 minutes in the last Champions League final, won Player of the Match and in doing so won her fourth Champions League title with Lyon, her fifth league title and fifth Coupe de France, whilst also being voted BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019 for the second time and she was awarded the first Ballon d’Or Féminin in December. She is certainly no pushover in the game and is sticking out her neck, voice and career for it.
Ada understandably gets the respect of everyone in the industry, though some have wanted to know the exact reasons behind her shunning of the national side since 2017, feeling that the best player in the world owes us an explanation as to why she won’t be at the World Cup next month.
But most respect her decision was based on the way she was treated by her FA and that she would not have made such a choice without good reason. She has been clear that at the core of the issue was a lack of respect for female players in Norway. Since she ruled herself out, the Norwegian Football Association and the nation’s players’ association have signed an historic equal pay agreement which saw the amount of money paid to the women’s team almost double from 3.1m krone (£296,845) to 6m krone (£574,540). It included 550,000 krone (£47,875) paid by male Norwegian players, money they receive for commercial activities.
It isn’t just about money however, as the following excerpt from an interview she granted the BBC after being named the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year reveals, It’s about attitude, respect and equal opportunities and I (we) stand with her.
“What I think is important for us as players is to always stay on our toes and be critical to everything being said.
“It’s great that we all talk about investment but there needs to be action behind it as well. If we don’t push for the change for women’s football to go in the right direction then it won’t come by itself.
“I think sometimes we need to come away and think ‘are we going as fast as we should be? Are we doing things right? Is this all talk?’
“Football is my biggest passion in life and I’ve worked really hard to get here. It’s so important to me so I can’t sit and watch things not go in the right direction.
“It would be easy for me to perform, do my thing, and stay quiet. But it’s so much bigger than that.
“Winning all these trophies and having all this success gives you a voice. It’s not about me. It’s never been about me. It’s about getting the change for our sport. It should motivate a lot of others too. We’re all in this together.
“I got a question from a journalist asking ‘do you consider yourself a footballer or someone who fights for equality?’ and I said it’s impossible to be in football and not fight for equality.
“When we all stand together on this, to bring our sport in the right direction, we will be so strong.
“The more people give attention to equal pay, the easier it gets. I think we should look at ourselves and what we can do to develop the sport to increase the level and obviously that’s to perform, to increase the level. That’s our biggest job.
“But it’s not always about money, either. It’s about attitude and respect. We’re talking about young girls getting the same opportunity as boys – giving them the same opportunity to dream.
“If you can change attitudes in the beginning, things will change.
“The men in the suits can’t ignore that. They are going to understand one day. They are going to understand that this is about society and it’s about modern football.”
They definitely will, we’ll make certain of that. Thank you, Ada for championing the fight.
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