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Ada Hegerberg: ‘When we all stand together on equality’

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Ada Hegerberg on equality: ‘One day the men in suits will understand’

Ada Hegerberg is officially the best player in women’s football.

The 23-year-old won the first women’s Ballon d’Or in December and on Saturday capped a remarkable season by scoring a hat-trick to lift her fourth Champions League title with Lyon.

But she will not be at the Women’s World Cup this summer.

In 2017, she walked away from Norway’s national team after growing increasingly frustrated with its set-up and what she called a “lack of respect” for female players.

Hegerberg was named the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year on Wednesday, and BBC World Service asked the striker why it was so important for her to speak up on equality.

This was her response:

“What I think is important for us as players is to always stay on our toes and be critical to everything being said.

“It’s great that we all talk about investment but there needs to be action behind it as well. If we don’t push for the change for women’s football to go in the right direction then it won’t come by itself.

“I think sometimes we need to come away and think ‘are we going as fast as we should be? Are we doing things right? Is this all talk?’

“Football is my biggest passion in life and I’ve worked really hard to get here. It’s so important to me so I can’t sit and watch things not go in the right direction.

“It would be easy for me to perform, do my thing, and stay quiet. But it’s so much bigger than that.

“Winning all these trophies and having all this success gives you a voice. It’s not about me. It’s never been about me. It’s about getting the change for our sport. It should motivate a lot of others too. We’re all in this together.

“I got a question from a journalist asking ‘do you consider yourself a footballer or someone who fights for equality?’ and I said it’s impossible to be in football and not fight for equality.

“When we all stand together on this, to bring our sport in the right direction, we will be so strong.

“The more people give attention to equal pay, the easier it gets. I think we should look at ourselves and what we can do to develop the sport to increase the level and obviously that’s to perform, to increase the level. That’s our biggest job.

“But it’s not always about money, either. It’s about attitude and respect. We’re talking about young girls getting the same opportunity as boys – giving them the same opportunity to dream.

“If you can change attitudes in the beginning, things will change.

“The men in the suits can’t ignore that. They are going to understand one day. They are going to understand that this is about society and it’s about modern football.”

Watch the moment BBC surprises Hegerberg with award

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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