Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg says she just wants respect after 'stupid joke' from award ceremony

Ada Hegerberg devoted her life to reaching that stage in Paris on Dec. 3, where she was to receive the Ballon d’Or as women’s world player of the year.

Years of intense training and sacrifice turned the Norwegian forward into the most dominant soccer player on the planet, someone whose 31 goals in 20 games during Division 1 Féminine play drove Olympique Lyonnais to its 12th straight league title and third straight Champions League. At just 23 years old, she might already be the best player in the world.

That could have been the big story of the first-ever female Ballon d’Or winner, but it wasn’t. Rather, an inappropriate suggestion from ceremony host Martin Solveig that Hegerberg twerk on stage seized the headlines.

That was unfortunate for Hegerberg, who laid out in The Players’ Tribune on Sunday that she just wants respect, both for herself and for the world of women’s soccer.

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2018 Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg
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2018 Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg
Olympique Lyonnais' Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg brandishes her trophy after receiving the 2018 FIFA Women's Ballon d'Or award for best player of the year during the 2018 FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. - The winner of the 2018 Ballon d'Or will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in Paris on December 3 evening, with Croatia's Luka Modric and a host of French World Cup winners all hoping to finally end the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Olympique Lyonnais' Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg (R) stands past French DJ and producer Martin Solveig gesturing after receiving the 2018 FIFA Women's Ballon d'Or award for best player of the year during the 2018 FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. - The winner of the 2018 Ballon d'Or will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in Paris on December 3 evening, with Croatia's Luka Modric and a host of French World Cup winners all hoping to finally end the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - (FromL) 2018 FIFA Ballon d'Or awarded for best player of the year, Men's Ballon d'Or Real Madrid's Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, Women's Ballon d'Or Olympique Lyonnais' Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg and Under-21 Ballon d'Or (Kopa trophy) Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe pose at the end of the 2018 FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. - The winner of the 2018 Ballon d'Or will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in Paris on December 3 evening, with Croatia's Luka Modric and a host of French World Cup winners all hoping to finally end the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Olympique Lyonnais' Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg (C) celebrates with her teammates after receiving the 2018 FIFA Women's Ballon d'Or award for best player of the year during the 2018 FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. - The winner of the 2018 Ballon d'Or will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in Paris on December 3 evening, with Croatia's Luka Modric and a host of French World Cup winners all hoping to finally end the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Lyon's Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg controls the ball during the French Women's D1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lyon (OL) at the Jean Bouin stadium in Paris on November 18, 2018. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Ada Hegerberg of Olympique Lyonnais during the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Ajax Amsterdam and Olympique Lyonnais at Sportpark De Toekomst on October 17, 2018 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Ada Hegerberg of Olympique Lyonnais during the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Ajax Amsterdam and Olympique Lyonnais at Sportpark De Toekomst on October 17, 2018 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Ada Hegerberg pictured inside the photo booth prior to The Best FIFA Football Awards at Royal Festival Hall on September 24, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Ada Hegerberg poses for a portrait at London Marriott Hotel County Hall prior to the The Best FIFA Football Awards 2018 on September 23, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Lyon's Ada Hegerberg attends a press conference in Haugesund, Norway, on September 11, 2018, one day ahead of the UEFA Women's Champions League match against Avaldsnes. (Photo by Jan Kare Ness / NTB Scanpix / AFP) / Norway OUT (Photo credit should read JAN KARE NESS/AFP/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - MAY 24: Ada Hegerberg of Olympique Lyonnais celebrates after the UEFA Womens Champions League Final between VfL Wolfsburg and Olympique Lyonnais on May 24, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Ada Hegerberg of Olympique Lyonnais with Trophy After the UEFA Women's Champions League Final match between VFL Wolfsburg and Olympique Lyonnais at Kyiv, Ukraine on 24 May 2018. (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ada Hegerberg of Olympique Lyonnais with UEFA Womens Champions League trophy during the UEFA Women's Champions League final match between VfL Wolfsburg women and Olympique Lyonnais women on May 24, 2018 at Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo Stadium in Kyiv, Ukraine(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
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Ada Hegerberg gives her side of Ballon d’Or incident

In her piece, Hegerberg recounts the sheer joy she and her family experienced when she learned she had won, the grueling and thankless workload she took on to become an elite soccer player, and the fun of the Ballon d’Or ceremony leading up to her presentation.

It’s a side of the story that many who know her only thanks to Solveig’s comment aren’t aware of, and Hegerberg says the comment won’t be what she remembers from the ceremony:

When I got up onstage to accept my award, everything was calm. Everything was warm. Everything was perfect. I looked out into the crowd and saw so many amazing footballers. The women’s game and the men’s game were side by side.

What an incredible, beautiful moment.

I will not let it be ruined by a stupid joke from a presenter.

It didn’t ruin it in the moment.

It does not ruin it in my memory.

Hegerberg later called the ceremony the “most fantastic night of my life” and said that she wasn’t even aware that Solveig’s comment and her icy reaction had gone viral until hours after the ceremony.

The overarching lesson of Hegerberg’s story is that while she doesn’t care much about Solveig’s request, it’s symptomatic of the sexism and inequality that women’s soccer faces. Per Hegerberg, that can only be changed if the world understands that the experiences of male and female soccer players aren’t very different:

I could speak for hours about equality, and what needs to change in football, and in society as a whole. But in the end, everything comes back to respect.

RESPECT.

I never saw myself as a women’s footballer. Not when I was in my tiny village in Norway. Not when I was suffering in Germany. Not when I finally made it to Lyon.

We work just as hard as any footballer, period. We go through the same experiences and heartaches. We make the same sacrifices. We leave our families behind to chase our dreams, too.

It is simply about respect.

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