The scandalous reason why the best player won’t be at Women’s World Cup – Hayley Matthews

Ada Hegerberg celebrates with the trophy after her team Lyon beat Barcelona 4-1 in the UEFA Women's Champions League final in Budapest. Picture: AFP/Getty
Ada Hegerberg celebrates with the trophy after her team Lyon beat Barcelona 4-1 in the UEFA Women's Champions League final in Budapest. Picture: AFP/Getty
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So, I want to talk about women’s football. The amazing Ada Hegerberg is officially the best player in women’s football yet she won’t be at the Women’s World Cup this summer.

Why? Put in simple terms, she wants to be treated as an equal to her male counterparts and listened to as she fights for equality in the sport and a more accessible pathway for young women wanting to start the journey as a professional footballer. But she’s not being taken seriously because, well, it’s only women’s football so why the fuss?

For someone who was just a few days ago named the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year, her message of equality is an important one that we should all be taking heed of. After walking away from Norway’s national team in 2017 because of her frustrations with its set-up, no wonder she says there is a “lack of respect” for female players in the game. If a woman at the top of her game can’t get the powerful folk at the top to listen, then what hope do the rest of us have?

My partner and I have debated until we’re blue in the face. What ­difference is there between the two, other than the sex of the people playing, yet there seems to be much less demand for women’s football, equating to less sponsorship, less money, less power and it’s the women playing the sport like Ada who are taking the hit.

Ada, 23, is at the top of her game right now after winning the first women’s Ballon d’Or in December and she’s being talked about everywhere after Saturday’s 16-minute hat-trick against Barcelona as Lyon claimed the Women’s Champions League title.

Could you imagine Messi or Ronaldo saying they weren’t going to play football any more because they weren’t being taken seriously? I think half the population would end up giving themselves a hernia with the stress.

So for somebody who is such a good role model for young girls, we really should be listening to her to progress women’s football into the 21st century. She asks for the pathway for young women and girls wanting to get in to football to be clearer, more transparent, and as equally open to opportunities as it is for their male counterparts. Sounds simple and easy to do – I think so anyway.

When I was listening to Ada being interviewed after she received the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award, I couldn’t help but think how different her situation is to her male counterparts who will be earning an awful lot more than she is, being taken more seriously and offered more opportunities, which left me thinking: are the WAGS the clever ones? They have the men bringing in the top dollars whilst they sit back and reap the benefits of the lifestyle that comes with marrying a professional footballer.

But, actually, maybe they are to blame instead, giving up their voice in exchange for a Rolex lifestyle. For the WAGs, any chance of being treated as an equal flies past their heads quicker than a penalty. So my conclusion – it’s not the men at the top who are doing the damage, it’s the women who give up their voice to go hang out with the Gucci bag crew. So I urge the WAGs, speak up for the Adas and use your power.

Sticking together to diminish the view that women somehow can’t be as good at football as our male ­counterparts, and supporting each other, I believe is the way forward. Let’s educate our young females to believe we’re all equal as standard and the future Adas will have more support at the top. Our daughters will thank us for it.