Breaking the decade-long duopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably two of the greatest football players to have graced the field, Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric was awarded the Ballon d’Or on Monday night. Alongside the 33-year-old, French youngster Kylian Mbappe was named the winner of Kopa Trophy for young player of the year.
While the two men attracted most of the paparazzi, the event also witnessed another winner: the first in its 62-year history. Ada Hegerberg of Norway was crowned the first-ever recipient of Ballon d’Or Feminin, also known as Women’s Ballon d’Or, by France Football for being the best female football player of the calendar year.
With 219 goals in 215 games so far in her career, Hegerberg is a sensation in women’s football. Currently plying her trade at Lyon, she is a three-time Women’s Champions League winner.
Named the Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year in 2016, Hegerberg added another feather in her hat on Monday as she raised her Ballon d’Or in the air, grinning with pride. Honoured by one and all, Hegerberg stood on the stage, ready to be greeted by former France international David Ginola and French DJ Martin Solveig. Little did she know that her biggest day was about to be marred by an inappropriate comment.
Following her triumph, Solveig said, “You have seen that I prepared a little celebration for Kylian (Mbappe), so we said we are going to do something similar.”
He added, “Do you know how to twerk?”
Disgusted by the uncalled-for question, Hegerberg kept her cool and brushed off Solveig with a flat ‘no’, which he and some others laughed off.
However, it left most stunned, including Mbappe, who was pictured speechless at the incident, at the appalling change in tone as the words were subjected to Hegerberg, a woman achiever.
Feted as the best women’s footballer only seconds ago, Hegerberg was asked if she knew how to twerk, a question that none of her male counterparts were asked on that particular night or earlier on any occasion.
Solveig’s question is a reminder of the misogyny that is ingrained in football, which reduces the female player to her body, and overlooks her achievements on the field. One cannot expect women’s sport to keep up with the men’s whilst people like Solveig are given the platform to spout their misogynistic opinions.
This also brings us to the question: why was Solveig, a French DJ, chosen to be a part of the presentation ceremony at a prestigious award like this? Why not invite a legend from women’s football, or a pundit, or a former player — simply anyone who is indeed related to women’s football and not a person who has nothing to do with women’s football, or sports altogether.
France Football and Solveig have brought a bad name for Women’s Ballon d’Or in its inaugural edition. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first incident of disrespect that Hegerberg has faced — taking a stand against what she stated as a lack of respect for female players in Norway, Hegerberg hasn't featured for the national team since it crashed out of the group stage of the Women's European Championship in 2017 without scoring a goal.
Speaking to The Associated Press, she said she has no plans to overturn her decision to preserve her “authenticity and values, as a person, (and) as a footballer.”
“A lot of things need to be done to make the conditions better for women who play football,” she commented. “It’s all about how we respect women’s football. I don't think the respect has been there.”
She’s right. The sheer lack of respect towards Hegerberg on a day she made history only goes to the show how common it is at other levels and events of women’s football. To be made uncomfortable in front of hundreds in the crowd and millions on the screen, proves all that’s wrong with the treatment of women’s football.
What’s worse is she had to hear this right after she gave a speech acknowledging the award and asking young girls to “believe in yourself”.
After the ceremony, Hegerberg said she wasn’t affected by the controversial question, possibly to not let someone else ruin her big day. Although Solveig later released a statement which was considered an ‘apology’, the Frenchman’s words were unacceptable, just like his behaviour on stage.
“I apologise for my bad English culture level as I didn't know this could be seen as such an offence,” he said. This ‘apology’ only reaffirms how prevalent sexism still is.
Sexism continues to plague sports, even the best of sportswomen like Ada Hegerberg.
Three Women’s Champions League medals, four Division 1 Feminine trophies, three Coupe de France medals; UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe, Norwegian Sportsperson of the year. All at the age of 23. Ada Hegerberg: put some respect on that name.
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Updated Date: Dec 04, 2018 22:29:47 IST