Women’s Euro 2022: every sport deserves its Ada Hegerberg

There she was. Lifting her rainbow bracelet into the sky above. In honor of those who suffered at the hands of hatred in Oslo. with a message “#Love”. Ada Hegerberg was playing in just her third match since she returned to the Norwegian national team after five long years when the country’s capital faced tragedy. The shootings at a popular LGBTQ+ venue, the Herr Nilsen jazz club and another pub on June 25.

With the women’s national team playing New Zealand later that day, Hegerberg opened the scoring and held up her rainbow captain’s armband as a tribute to those who had suffered. A gesture that she explained after the game on her social networks with a single word.

This was Hegerberg’s fourth goal in his third match since returning to play for the national team after a five-year break. The 26-year-old had decided not to wear the national jersey in her protest over gender inequality issues at the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF). “(NFF) took a train back to 1800 and stayed there,” Hegerberg said in her ESPN+ documentary (My Name is Ada Hegerberg), recalling the frustrations that led to her decision in 2017.

In the 42-minute documentary, it is revealed that the Norwegian women’s national team was subject to problems such as being able to play on inferior pitches to their male counterparts, boots arriving late, and when they did arrive, they were often the wrong size. All this while playing the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup in Russia. Despite the fact that the NFF was one of the first in Europe to equalize the salary between male and female players, Hegerberg has insisted that the problems go beyond the monetary amounts received.

She mentions in one section that a certain coach had asked her to keep quiet when she raised issues of gender bias with NFF directors. It would all take its toll on her, as the Norway international would later mention that she had nightmares during that phase. Since the administrators did not take steps to improve the level of the women’s team facilities, Hegerberg decided to part ways with the national team. A decision that provoked criticism, even from some of her colleagues from Norway.

The Norwegian FA would blame Hegerberg, stating that his decision caught them by surprise, while the player claimed that she had put this situation in the head of the federation months ago. Norway would go to the 2019 World Cup without Hegerberg and reach the quarter-finals before losing 3-0 to England.

To understand who missed out on Norway and the World Cup, just look at 23-year-old Ada Hegerberg’s honor roll before the tournament, in the summer of 2019. Five league titles, four Coupe de France and four League titles. of Champions titles with Lyon that included a 30-minute hat-trick in the 2019 final. Hegerberg, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018, also overtook Anja Mittag as the all-time top scorer in the Champions League Women in 2019. She also became the fastest to score 50 goals in Men’s and Women’s Champions League history.

For Norway, she scored 38 goals in 66 games (the ninth-highest among women) and reached the final of Euro 2013. Her absence only impoverished the international game and Hegerberg restored it to its full glory in her first appearance with the national team in five years by scoring a forty-minute hat-trick against Kosovo in 2023 World Cup qualifying. “I missed him, I missed him a lot,” Hegerberg told The Guardian of his return to the national team.

“Playing for your country, representing your country, it’s fantastic. Something that hits deep is the connection with the new generation. I remember the bond with all these girls and boys when they were in the national team, feeling that you have a connection and you are inspiring them, that was very important to me.

Hegerberg expressed that he felt the time was right to return, with the Norwegian Football Federation led by its first female president in Lise Klaveness, a former Norway international. “She has made it very clear that there have been a lot of changes in the system, new people who have helped create new dynamics,” the 26-year-old said in her interview with The Guardian when asked about her conversations with the newly appointed Norwegian. . FA boss. “Ultimately, we could have talked about the situation forever, but now it’s about being in this together. I want to be a part of this again and try to help lift things even higher, because obviously there’s always more to do.”

Hegerberg’s time with Lyon Football Club is vital to understanding his perspective on the changes that need to happen for girls and women who play football in Norway. Lyon have the most successful women’s football team in Europe, with eight Champions League titles. The French club under the chairmanship of Jean-Michel Aulas has consciously worked to create mirror facilities and provide the same resources for its men’s and women’s team. From training/strength and conditioning venues to kits, from quality turf to play on to travel and lodging facilities. Lyon have set the standard for even greater footballing powers in Europe to follow.

Lyon’s victory in the 2021/22 Women’s Champions League final against Barcelona was indicative of how far they are as a team from clubs with even greater resources. A 3–1 campaign finish saw Hegerberg score the second goal of the match and another later that was ruled offside. She had previously scored a goal in each of the two semi-final matches against PSG. She a red-hot silver contribution after missing professional football for 18 months due to an ACL injury.

And with her four goals in four games for Norway since her return, the national team and their fans have the star player they would want for UEFA Women’s Euro 2022. The same goes for sport. Ada Hegerberg is not only one of the best in soccer, but also someone who brings out the best in soccer. A player who walked away from the international game at the height of her powers to lobby on the larger issue that she felt was plaguing the game in her country. She’s the kind of player the game deserves, maybe one that every game deserves. The guy whose legacy isn’t defined by her own career but by those who follow.

In a recent conversation with the Los Angeles Times, when asked what he wanted his legacy to be, Hegerberg’s response was brief, upbeat and personal. “I really hope I have done my best to make my sport appreciated, respected and left in a better light than I found it. It’s much bigger than me.”

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