Ada Hegerberg makes history

Norwegian soccer player becomes first female Ballon d’Or winner

Ada Hegerberg

Photo: Franck Fife /
Agence France-Presse
Ada Hegerberg (right) after presentation of Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) from former French soccer star David Ginola. She is the first woman named the world’s best women’s soccer player.

Jo Christian Weldingh

The name Ada Martine Stolsmo Hegerberg will forever be written in gold in the history books of soccer as the first ever female winner of the Ballon d’Or.

The Ballon d’Or (French for Golden Ball) is an annual football award presented by France Football. It has been awarded since 1956 and become the most prestigious individual award in international soccer. Until this year, it was exclusively awarded to male players.

The award ceremony was held in Paris and Hegerberg, wearing a beautiful golden dress, received the award from former French soccer star David Ginola.

“It’s amazing, I have no words. It’s a big moment for me,” she said, before continuing to thank her teammates and coaches on her team Lyon, her fiancé and her family. “I love you all so much.”

When meeting the Norwegian press after the ceremony, Hegerberg was clearly moved.

“It’s a historic moment for women, and maybe even Norwegian history,” she said smiling. “It’s a mix of many different emotions, and I’m speechless.”

She finished the press conference with a call to young women and girls everywhere. “Believe in yourselves.”

Ada Hegerberg

Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk / VG
Ada Hegerberg (left) after Lyon won Champions League final.

The 23-year-old Hegerberg was the youngest of the 15 nominees. In 2018, she has won both the French league and Champions League with Lyon and been the top goal scorer in both tournaments with 32 (in 30 games) and 15 goals, respectively.

Even though it was an amazing night, both for Hegerberg and Norwegian soccer in general, for some, Hegerberg’s moment of triumph was somewhat spoiled by an onstage exchange after her acceptance speech. The French D.J. Martin Solveig asked Ms. Hegerberg something that had nothing to do with her expertise: whether she knew how to “twerk.”

“No,” Hegerberg responded immediately.

The exchange quickly went viral on different social media platforms, where critics—including some high-profile athletes (Norwegian and non-Norwegian)—accused Solveig of sexism and for destroying Hegerberg’s big moment.

The controversy almost overshadowed the fact that, in the same ceremony, Luka Modric beat both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the men’s Ballon d’Or, becoming the first player, other than Messi or Ronaldo, to win the award since 2007.

“This is an absolute joke,” Lindsey Horan, a U.S. women’s team midfielder who was one of the finalists for the women’s Ballon D’Or, tweeted in response to Solveig’s comment. She offered her support for Hegerberg: “Congrats and you do not deserve this.”

“Obviously, I was expecting a question about my football skills, how it felt standing there, but in the end, I was happy to get the award and wasn’t quite thinking about what’s going on in the media and social media,” Hegerberg told CNN.

Hegerberg has been a controversial figure in Norwegian soccer after stepping away from the national team after a disastrous European Championship in 2017 for no apparent reason other than “frustrations with the way women’s soccer was treated within Norway.”

The ongoing feud with the Norwegian soccer federation is probably the reason why Hegerberg’s win didn’t spark any notable celebration among her former national teammates on social media.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the January 11, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.