One of football's most talented players, Ada Hegerberg, is sitting out the 2019 Women’s World Cup to protest the disparity in pay, conditions, and recognition between the men’s and women’s leagues.
Hegerberg has become the face of the newly launched campaign #TimeForAction organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
The award-winning striker began her professional career playing for football clubs in Norway as a teenager before joining Olympique Lyonnais, a Division 1 team in Lyon, France. She was awarded the 2015 Norwegian Gold Ball, the first time a woman has received the award in 20 years. She was named Footballer of the Year in 2017 and 2019 by BBC. Still, her recognitions aren’t without sexism. As the first woman to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 2018, a player of the year award presented by France Football, the presenter of the award asked her if she could twerk on stage.
While many may share her opinions, Hegerberg is the first to actively boycott the Women’s World Cup to get the point across. Other teams and players around the world have come together to protest how women’s football is treated in comparison to the men’s league. American players have filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation due to “institutionalised gender discrimination” in the form of unequal pay and treatment. The lawsuit alleges that the women’s team gets paid an average of 40% of what the men’s team does. Denmark’s team cancelled a World Cup qualifying match over a pay dispute. Ireland’s team has threatened to go on strike.
Until 2017, Hegerberg played for Norway in national tournaments. In the summer of 2017, Hegerberg decided to stop playing for the Norwegian national team to protest the Northern Football Federation for how it treats the women’s league. The Norwegian Football Association (FA) have made some significant improvements, such as promising equal pay between the teams. They are the first FA to do so, but Hegerberg believes there is still a long way to go. “A lot of things need to be done to make the conditions better for women who play football,” Hegerberg told the Associated Press in an interview last year.
“I think Ada’s decision needs to be respected,” said UEFA women’s football director, Nadine Kessler, to the Associated Press. “It’s a brave decision to consciously miss a World Cup.”
The Norwegian Soccer Federation wants to work with Hegerberg on improving the conditions for women’s teams. “We are happy for this debate to raise attention and respect for women’s soccer in the world,” female sporting director and former player Lise Klaveness told the AP. “And I do view it as a big change-maker. But I just wish she was in our team.”