Battle of the soccer stars

Ada Hegerberg comments draw ire from Martin Ødegård

Ada Hegerberg

Photo: Bjørn Delebekk / VG
Ada Hegerberg wears a Norwegian flag but isn’t wearing the Norwegian colors at the women’s World Cup in France. Hegerberg, a star for French power Lyon who has been named the best women’s player in the world, left the Norwegian national team in 2017 in a dispute with the national federation over unequal treatment of the men and women. On the eve of the World Cup, she made more critical comments in a magazine article, drawing a response from men’s star Martin Ødegaard.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

“Maybe you should find something better to do, and not disturb the national (women’s soccer) team’s preparations for the World Cup? They have qualified for the World Cup with their teammates (maybe the biggest thing a soccer player can do) and have already gotten enough negative attention. They deserve better,” Martin Ødegaard wrote in an Instagram post, referring to an interview Ada Hegerberg did with Norwegian soccer magazine, Josimar, in which she criticized the Norwegian management and supporting crew, and the whole Norwegian soccer association.

He continued, “The fact that you chose to say this now is nothing but baffling. The timing is horrible. It’s your own decision not to play for the national team, but respect Norway and the team. It’s enough now.”

Hegerberg quit the Norwegian national women’s team after the European Championship in 2017, when Norway lost three out of three matches in the group stage. Since then, Hegerberg has, several times, spoken out about why she no longer wants to represent Norway on the national team stage. In the past, she has cited unequal treatment of the men’s and women’s teams.

In the interview with Josimar, she was, among other things, quoted as saying, “Our leaders haven’t been good enough. They’re not competent enough to know how to lift a whole group of players on this level. In an environment like that, it isn’t safe for the players.”

Her comments apparently annoyed Ødegaard quite a bit. His Instagram story, directed at her, went out publicly to his 2 million+ followers. Teammate Håvard Nordtveit shared the story, so it seems more than likely that Hegerberg’s comments have been a hot topic among the male national team players.

This is the first time in Norwegian soccer history that two players on the two national teams have had an open conflict, and the fact that it’s between the two team’s biggest stars makes it even more sensational. Hegerberg, 23, was named the world’s best female player last year for her play for French power, Lyon. Ødegaard, 20, a Real Madrid midfielder, is one of the biggest soccer talents in the world.

 Ødegaard v. Hegerberg

Photo: Bjørn Delebekk / VG
Martin Ødegaard after scoring a goal for the Norwegian men’s national soccer team against Romania on June 8. In an Instagram post, he criticized comments made by Ada Hegerberg about the Norwegian football federation in a magazine article. Ødegaard felt the timing of the comments overshadowed the Norwegian women’s national team’s beginning play in the World Cup in France. Hegerberg quit the national team in 2017 and has been in an ongoing dispute with the federation.

At the time of his controversial Instagram story, Ødegaard was in Oslo, preparing for the men’s very important European qualifying game against Romania, June 8, a game in which the Norwegians lost the victory after a disastrous finish, losing their 2-0 lead in the last minutes of the game. Ødegaard scored one of the team’s goals.

Even though the result was disappointing, Ødegaard played one of the best national team matches of his career. He was creative and quick from his midfield position and was named Norway’s man of the match.

The draw against Romania weakened Norway’s chances to qualify for the European championship, and the 2-0 victory against the Faroe Islands, June 10, didn’t do much to strengthen their position in their qualifying group. Norway is currently placed fourth with five points, seven points behind leader Spain, and four points behind Romania in the ever-important second place. The top two teams qualify directly to the championship.

The team has been so disappointing of late that the media have already started discussing the best possible replacement for Swede Lars Lagerbäck as head coach.

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 June 28, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

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