Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg brushes off sexist ‘twerking’ storm and says she does not want it to overshadow the progress of women’s football
Michael Dorgan in New York
Last night’s Ballon d’Or award ceremony was supposed to be a milestone for equality in world football with the inaugural presentation of the women’s version of the award – instead, it descended into an uncomfortable own goal played out across TV screens around the globe.
Norway’s 23-year-old Ada Hegerberg had the honor of being awarded the first women’s Ballon d’Or for her outstanding achievements last season, winning her third Champions League trophy and breaking the record for the most goals in a Champions League season with her club Lyon – matching Cristiano Ronaldo on 15.
Hegerberg found herself immersed in a sexism row as French presenter, DJ Martin Solveig, asked her if she knew how to ‘twerk’, live on stage after receiving her award.
Hegerberg politely replied “No”, but that didn’t stop an online firestorm of criticism levied against Solveig.
The incident overshadowed what was a remarkable achievement for the hugely talented player who became the first winner of the women’s Ballon D’Or, which has been handed to men since 1956.
The striker also scored 33 goals in 21 games for her fourth league title with Lyon and has also picked up the UEFA Best Player Award in 2016, the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2017.
Hegerberg, played down the controversy and said it hadn’t marred her evening but you have to wonder if the young woman was deflecting to keep herself away from the ensuing uproar and quite rightfully shift the focus to her on-the-field accomplishments.
Before the ceremony, Hegerberg told The Guardian that she found it “really frustrating” that sport remains “such a man’s world.”
“Sometimes it’s really frustrating, I must say. Sometimes you have episodes or situations where you feel like, damn, we’re in such a man’s world,” she said in an interview.
Yet after what was clearly an embarrassing incident (she initially walked away and the returned), she said afterward:
“I didn’t feel it was like that at all, to be honest and I am sad if people thought about the situation like that,” adding that Solveig later apologized.
She added: “He came to see me after and apologized. The Ballon d’Or is the most important thing.” Wise and mature words for someone so young and she handled the situation with real panache and decency. This was her moment and one fool’s joke wasn’t going to rob her of her moment.
In fairness, the uproar doesn’t do justice to real football fans and people who are fighting for equality by bringing more exposure to women’s football. Solveig is after all a musician and radio host and not directly involved in the game.
Perhaps the reaction from PSGs Kylian Mbappe was more in toe with genuine football people, not entertainers like Solveig.
Solveig for his part said he was “astonished” at the reaction and took to social media shortly after.
“Guys I’m a little bit amazed, astonished by what I’m reading on the internet,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.
“Of course I didn’t want to offend anyone … This was a joke, probably a bad one and I want to apologize for the one I may have offended.”
Ballon d'Or host asks first ever women's footballer of the year winner if she can 'twerk' pic.twitter.com/SZniFhKMdc
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) December 4, 2018
This article first appeared in the Daily National on December 7, 2018. To see the original version click here.