Sunday 22 September 2019

'Twerk' sexism furore takes attention from Hegerberg's Ballon win

Ada Hegerberg seems to see the funny side as she is interviewed by Martin Solveig after being presented with the women’s Ballon d’Or. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Ada Hegerberg seems to see the funny side as she is interviewed by Martin Solveig after being presented with the women’s Ballon d’Or. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Katie Whyatt and Tom Morgan

As Ada Hegerberg proudly held aloft her Ballon d'Or and then told young girls "please believe in yourself", women's football cherished a watershed moment in its long and tortuous fight to win parity with the men's game.

The feeling of elation would not last. After the winner of the first world women's title was asked on stage by host DJ Martin Solveig if she knew how to twerk - a sexually provocative dance - it became clear that a landmark chance to show football had moved on from its sexist past had been lost.

Hegerberg, 23, appeared visibly stunned, a room packed with the world football's elite fell silent and Kylian Mbappe's shocked expression reflected the reaction that would soon transmit to social media.

The French DJ later posted an apology video on his Twitter account, but the sporting world and beyond reacted with outrage.

Bemoaned A host of leading female footballers lined up to express their fury, while Andy Murray bemoaned "another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport".

The Women in Sport campaign group said it was "extremely disappointed".

"Why do women still have to put up with that s**t," Murray wrote online as he asked whether Mbappe and Luka Modric, winner of the men's Ballon d'Or, would have been asked about the dance popularised by the singer Miley Cyrus.

"I've been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal," he added. Former England player Eniola Aluko said Solveig had offered a "pathetic apology" and that "everyone who has an ounce of decency and respect for women is offended".

Lianne Sanderson, of Juventus and England, added: "This is not an apology and has nothing to do with the language barrier."

The 23-year-old Hegerberg, who has won nine major titles in four years at Lyon, including three Champions League titles, took the award ahead of England internationals Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby.

Hegerberg made her top-flight Norwegian debut for Kolbotn aged 15 and since then has racked up more than 250 career goals, including a record 15 in last season's Women's Champions League, which Lyon won.

After the 2015-'16 season, she was voted Europe's best female player.

The television pundit and former Arsenal player Alex Scott said her story should be an inspiration.

Quoting Hegerberg's speech: "To young girls all over the world please believe in yourself", she added: "Let's not forget this important message from Ada's speech."

Solveig insisted: "People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am, especially with women".

His explanation was accepted by Hegerberg, who said: "He came to me afterwards and was really sad that it went that way.

"I didn't really think about it at the time to be honest. I didn't really consider it as sexual harassment or anything in the moment."

Bronze, Hegerberg's Lyon team-mate who came sixth in the inaugural women's award, played down the row, claiming: "The DJ asked each person that won what was their dance. It was more of a joke of making her dance." ( © Daily Telegraph, London).

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