Ada Hegerberg has blazed her own trail by becoming the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or, football’s biggest award organised by France Football. Translating to Golden Ball, the award is recognised as one of the highest honours for soccer players. Conceived by sports writer Gabriel Hanot, it has been presented to male footballers since 1956. On 3 December, however, the prestigious award was given for the first time in the female footballer category, to Hegerberg.
The night of the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or, in Paris, was a step towards celebrating women’s football. It was a ceremony aimed at encouraging women to play a sport traditionally dominated by men. By acknowledging the achievements of Hegerberg, the global footballing community made it clear that this isn’t exclusively a man’s game.
A Norwegian national, the 23-year-old’s performance chart has an astounding number of goals scored and records broken. She plays as a striker for the premier European women’s team, France’s Olympique Lyon. She has scored more than 250 career goals till now.
But instead of focusing on her historical Ballon d’Or win, the world has been busy talking about a question she was asked while receiving her trophy at the award ceremony in Paris. A French DJ, Martin Solveig, who was also co-hosting the event, asked Hegerberg whether she knew how to “twerk”. She responded to this inappropriate comment with a firm “no”. The video capturing this exchange of words went viral, and has since racked up millions of views.
Solveig’s remark met with a lot of criticism and outrage on Twitter for being sexist and overshadowing Hegerberg’s actual win. It provoked the public and media to address the issue of blatant misogyny in the sporting sphere. For a night which was supposed to be a push towards progress by awarding the best woman soccer player, the highlight became a controversy. In response to the Twitter storm, Solveig apologised for what he’d said to Hegerberg.
While Hegerberg’s accomplishment is nothing short of phenomenal, the spotlight received by Solveig’s remark has sparked numerous debates on the existing prejudices against women.
Now with a well-deserved title, Hegerberg has been playing football since childhood. She took after her parents, Stein Erik Hegerberg and Gerd Stolsmo, who played football and served as coaches for Norwegian clubs. Her siblings, too, pursued football professionally.
As a teenager, Hegerberg helped Norway to the final of 2011 UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship. At the age of 16, she became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in Toppserien, the topmost level of women’s association football in Norway. She grabbed attention by doing so in just seven minutes against Røa. She kept giving one stellar performance after another in various championships in the following years.
In what is considered a high point of her career, she joined Lyons in 2014. In her first season itself, she became the league’s top scorer with 26 goals in 22 matches for the champions. She has scored 120 goals in 95 games for the Lyons to date.
During the 2015-16 season, she led Lyons to secure the treble of Women’s French Cup, UEFA Women’s Champions League and French League. The same year she was voted UEFA Best Women’s Footballer in Europe. At such a young age, she kept bagging prominent titles. Her long list of awards also includes the Golden Ball, for being Norway’s best footballer. What sets this achievement apart is that she was the second woman to win it after a gap of 20 years. In the calendar year of 2016, Hegerberg featured in headlines for scoring more goals than anyone else in UEFA, even beating Cristiano Ronaldo.
Her determination resulted in further development of her game and she kept performing brilliantly in international, European and domestic competitions. She added another achievement to her performance record in 2016-17 campaign. She scored an impressive total of 33 goals in 21 games and broke the record for the highest number of goals in a single Champions League. Her illustrious career also includes a hat-trick of the league’s trophies.
She led her team to victory in the UEFA season by scoring 13 goals in nine appearances. For these triumphs, she was named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year.
Last year, Hegerberg stunned many people by quitting the Norwegian team. In doing so, she gave up the chance to play for Women’s World Cup to be held in 2019 in France. She quit the national team in response to the continuing lack of organisational support for women’s soccer in Norway. Hegerberg now wants to focus on her club career and use her influence to build more soccer pitches in Norway. As for her club career, an unprecedented extension of contract, till 2021, with Lyons has already happened.
She is currently busy celebrating her big Ballon d’Or win.