Norwegian football player Ada Hegerberg has proved once again that she’s the best in the world, but she won’t be playing for Norway in the upcoming World Cup. A long-running conflict between Hegerberg and Norwegian football officials meant that the Norwegian women’s national football team assembled for training this week without her.
“I miss playing for the country, but not for the federation,” Hegerberg told reporters after she scored three goals of Lyon’s four goals against Barcelona last week and therefore won Lyon’s fourth Champions League final in a row. Her performance was also dubbed “historic” since no woman had ever scored a hat trick as she did in the final as well.
On Wednesday the BBC once again named her as the world’s best female football player, based on votes cast by football fans around the globe.
As fans and her own sister Andrine called her GOAT (Greatest of All Time), though, it became clear once again that Norway won’t benefit from Hegerberg’s expertise on the field. She’s still dissatisfied with Norwegian football’s top management after quitting the national team following disappointing results at the European Championships.
“The situation is the same as before,” Hegerberg told Norwegian reporters who covered the Lyon-Barcelona final, not least because of her presence. “I don’t have any further comment, I’m concentrating on the club (Lyon).”
She did drape herself in a Norwegian flag after her latest spectacular performance on the field. “It’s important to show the Norwegian flag, I got it from a friend,” she said. “Norwegians who win in Champions League, it doesn’t get any bigger that that. It’s indescribable.”
Norway’s football federation (NFF) congratulated Hegerberg, with its director of top football Lise Klaveness noting that Hegerberg “never ceases to impress. In her fourth Champions League final she scores three goals, before the break.”
Yet Hegerberg withdrew from Norway’s national team in 2017 and the chance to play in the World Cup in 2019. “There’s a lot of talk that as of today she’s not playing for Norway,” Klaveness told newspaper Aftenposten. “That’s sad, but I’m still proud that Ada is from Norway and in that way represents the country in a fantastic manner.”
Klaveness has had what she calls several “conversations” with Hegerberg after Klaveness took over as a football director. Hegerberg has long felt that women football players and men football players are not treated equally in Norway, a troubling claim in a country that prides itself on gender equality. She just doesn’t think the country invests early as much in the women as in the men in an effort to secure success. Norway’s women’s team, meanwhile, has often performed much better in international competition than the men.
“As I understand it, she (Hegerberg) has felt over time that she can’t do her best on the national team, and can’t be herself and do what she’s best at,” Klaveness told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “That’s of course something I take seriously.”
Hopes Hegerberg will eventually return
Klaveness said she’s been in a similar situation herself and opted against playing for the national team because “the system didn’t make room” for her. “So I understand her impression of things very well.”
Klaveness claims the federation works hard on behalf “of all our best players. We work a lot on including the players who are more the tough winner types, not least those who score lots of goals. We’re in a process to make that work. I hope Ada Hegerberg will come back to the national team.
“Now it’s my job to make things work for those who will go to the World Cup, and who defeated the current European Champion in order to get there,” Klaveness concluded, “and who haven’t asked for this situation.”
Team players claimed they’re united, with Guro Reiten and Caroline Graham Hansen (who just signed to play for Barcelona) as among the biggest stars. “We learned an enormous amount” after all the controversy with Hegerberg two years ago, Reiten told Aftenposten. “I think we’re a bit bigger, and wiser.”
Women’s national coach Martin Sjögren also feels the team itself emerged stronger after the conflict with Hegerberg. “We’ve been through a championship when it stormed the worst,” he said. “That of course teaches us all something, maybe painful experience, but we learned a lot. I think we gained a lot from it, too.”