#26) Ada Hegerberg


Ada Hegerberg is a truly remarkable woman who will go down in history for all the right reasons.

On Monday the Norwegian was the recipient of the first women’s Ballon d’Or, beating a plethora of immensely talented players – including six-time FIFA World Player of the Year/Best Women’s Player Marta and England stars Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby – to the award.

Unfortunately the headlines have been taken away from her achievement due to one man’s ridiculousness. The fact such a prestigious award was being presented by someone with no connection to the game is itself baffling, let alone what came out of his mouth upon doing so.

But we’re not going to talk about that here for two reasons. Firstly, the arguments surrounding sexism in football have already been eloquently put across by people in a much better position to comment than myself.

Secondly I just want to highlight and celebrate this mercurial talent.

For someone aged just 23, what Hegerberg has already achieved in the game is frankly astounding.

Four league titles, three Champions Leagues, the 2016 UEFA Best Player and the 2017 BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year have all come before, as well as finishing third in the FIFA Best Women’s Player category earlier in the year.

Furthermore she also has a frankly astounding 237 club career goals in just 233 games at the time of writing, with 175 of those coming in just 143 matches for her current side Lyon.

To compare, her ratio of 1.02 goals per game is greater than Pele (0.94), Lionel Messi (0.84) and Cristiano Ronaldo (0.75).

While many will argue the Division 1 Feminine is a one-team league – Lyon have topped the table for 12 seasons straight – how is that really any different to La Liga, which has seen Barcelona or Real Madrid share 13 of the last 14 titles?

And just to prove Hegerberg isn’t just a flat-track bully, her record against Europe’s elite is also exceptional – the forward’s tally of 15 in nine games last season made her the top scorer (male or female) in the Champions League. She even tweeted Ronaldo to tell him so!

While it’s clear that Hegerberg is a phenomenal talent who, with much of the rest of her career still to come, is going to break multitudes of records, she is more than just that.

She is a trailblazer, a pioneer and a perfect role model.

The maturity and class in which she dealt with that question from Monday’s ceremony – both at the time and since – has been very noticeable.

When asked about it the forward has done all she can to swiftly move the conversation back around to the award itself, refusing to waste any more than just a few words on the topic.

This isn’t to boost her own ego though; it’s to turn around the argument and show that important changes are beginning to happen in football.

Indeed she used her empowering winner’s speech to do just that, telling the world that football can now be a sport for anyone.

“I would like to end this speech with some words to young girls all over the world: Please, believe in yourselves.  

“I’d like to say a big huge thank you to France Football for letting us have this opportunity to have this award. It’s a huge step for women’s football and the work you put down is such an important thing for women’s football.

“Together we’ll make a difference.”

 

Hegerberg has been delivering more than just words though in the fight for equality in football.

Having initially shot to fame representing Norway – first showing her sublime talent to the world at the U19 Euros in 2011 despite being just 15 – the former Turbine Potsdam player turned her back on international football last year in protest at how football is treated in the country.

The Scandinavian country is often seen as one of the most gender equal in the world, especially when it comes to sport – in 2017 the women’s team became the first to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

But despite this Hegerberg cites problems with the way female footballers are treated on the whole, stating money isn’t the only issue, and has taken the stand in order to elicit progress and ensure the country’s future generations have the best conditions possible.

Ultimately this means it’s highly unlikely the world’s best player won’t be appearing at next summer’s World Cup but you can only applaud someone who is preparing to sacrifice that opportunity in order to change the game for the better.

Let’s not taint what should have been a special night and a celebration of a superstar athlete with one stupid moment.

Let’s remember it instead for the celebration of a phenomenal footballer and yet another sign that women’s football is starting to close the gap to the men.

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