Ada Hegerberg is back for Norway after five-year boycott

Ada Hegerberg is back! Norway star ended her five-year boycott just in time for the Euros having overcome 21 months of injury hell to help Lyon to European glory… and there will be absolutely no ‘twerking’ if they win

  • Norway star Ada Hegerberg returned to the fold in March after five-year exile
  • She quit the national team in 2017 in protest at treatment of women’s game
  • Champions League-winning Lyon striker is in top form ahead of the Euros
  • Hegerberg put 21 months of injury misery behind her to return last season 
  • The 26-year-old has won admirers for her football ability and social conscience  

Ada Hegerberg is already the comeback queen of this summer’s European Championship before a ball has even been kicked.

The striker returned to the Norway team in March after ending a five-year exile in protest at the national federation’s treatment of the women’s game and, as one of the world’s best players, will shoulder the high expectations of her country during the tournament.

Then there is Hegerberg’s injury hell, the 21 months on the sidelines with first a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and then a stress fracture of her left tibia.

Ada Hegerberg made her return to the Norway team back in March after a five-year exile

The 26-year-old striker has just guided Lyon to another Champions League success 

She returned to action for club Lyon back in October and within a few months had played an instrumental role in yet another Champions League triumph – the sixth of her career.

Lyon’s 3-1 win over Barcelona in the final, a game in which they blitzed their opponents with three goals – including one for Hegerberg – inside the opening 33 minutes, confirmed rumours of the club’s decline to be premature.

If Hegerberg completes her comeback by inspiring Norway to success in England next month then we truly are entering the realms of the miraculous.

It all feels like the 26-year-old is making up for lost time. Even her wedding to the former Celtic defender Thomas Rogne had to be delayed three years due to a combination of her leg injuries and the Covid pandemic.

A post shared by Ada Stolsmo Hegerberg (@ahegerberg)

A post shared by Ada Stolsmo Hegerberg (@ahegerberg)

After all this, it will be a thrill to see Hegerberg back on the international stage this summer, even if England stand directly in her path in the second of the group fixtures on July 11.

One of the most talented female footballers in the world and the first-ever winner of the Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2018, Hegerberg is a poster girl not only for the Norway team but her country in general.

Hugely marketable, she has long had sponsors and the media clamouring not only for her on-pitch ability but her social conscience and advocacy of the women’s game off it.

Her decision to take a stand and walk away from the Norway team in 2017 caused plenty of sleepless nights but it was driven by a feeling that something wasn’t right.

Hegerberg in action for Lyon against Paris Saint-Germain last season after her return to action

The Norwegian star has won the Champions League on six occasions with dominant Lyon

Norway’s Euro fixtures 

July 7 vs Northern Ireland

8pm; Southampton; BBC One

July 11 vs England

8pm; Brighton; BBC One

July 15 vs Austria

8pm; Brighton; BBC Three 

The Norwegian Football Federation, she felt, was not doing enough to develop and promote the women’s game, reportedly declining further funding because it wasn’t ‘commercially interesting’ enough.

Having been involved with the national setup since the age of 15, accumulating 66 appearances and scoring 38 goals, it was certainly not a decision taken lightly.

But her action did lead to change. The NFF introduced equal pay for male and female players representing the country and a doubling of the remuneration pot for the women’s team.

Hegerberg at the time felt there was ‘still a long way to go’ and simply couldn’t erase her negative personal experiences on international duty.

‘It was tough at so many camps. I have been broken mentally,’ she told the Norwegian football magazine Josimar.

‘It has been a deeply depressing feeling. I had nightmares after being with the national team, you shouldn’t have things like that. If you want to get anywhere in life you have to make choices.

‘Immediately, the thought came into my mind – ‘I think I’ll have to stop playing for the national team.’

‘[Then] everything just ran off and I started to sleep well again.’

Having spent the 2019 World Cup as a TV pundit rather than a player, Hegerberg will be back for this delayed Euros after the female NFF president Lise Klaveness, a former national team colleague, reached out to her.

Norway had a disaster at the 2017 Euros, losing all three of their group matches in Holland

‘We’ve had long conversations, discussions, and have some of the same vision about the game,’ Hegerberg told The Guardian recently.

‘She’s very conscious about the challenges we faced back then, the ones I pointed my finger at in 2017, and about the situation of women’s football in general, so it was very relieving to have those talks with her.

‘I want to be a part of it again and to try and help lift things even more, because obviously there’s always more to do.’

Having announced her comeback to the national team on Instagram with the hashtag #longtimenosee, Hegerberg returned in style by scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 World Cup qualifying win over Kosovo.

Hegerberg looks thoroughly annoyed as DJ Martin Solveig asks her to ‘twerk’ after winning the inaugural female Ballon d’Or prize in 2018

What’s depressing in this day and age is that most people will know Hegerberg as the girl who refused to ‘twerk’ on stage after accepting the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best female player in 2018.

This request by host DJ Martin Solveig – and Hegerberg’s curt response of ‘non’ before attempting to walk off – dominated headlines and completely overshadowed her achievement.

Though Solveig quickly apologised and Hegerberg graciously accepted, it underscored, in the eyes of many, her belief that football had a lot of catching up to do.

During the pandemic, Hegerberg expressed fears that women’s football would suffer because it was the sport’s ‘weakest link’.

She has also made no secret of her admiration for United States international and ‘walking protest’ Megan Rapinoe. ‘I know how hard it is to speak up about something because you’re getting judged in every corner,’ she told Sportsmail in 2019.

With plenty of years left in her playing career, Hegerberg has every opportunity to add to the seven French league titles, five French cups and six Champions League trophies won with Lyon.

During her injury absence, plenty speculated the balance of power in European football would switch from Lyon, who won five consecutive Champions League crowns between 2016 and 2020, over to 2021 winners Barcelona.

Hegerberg celebrates scoring a goal for Lyon against Barcelona in the Champions League final

The season also ended with another French league title success for Lyon, Hegerberg’s seventh

That was emphatically proved wrong in the Turin final back in May, with Hegerberg scoring five times during Lyon’s European games last season.

She was part of the Norway side that lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2013 European Championship final and though the rankings place them only seventh-best on the continent, her form means you can’t rule them out this summer.

They will certainly tussle with England to finish top of Group A and take it from there. Should they go on and triumph, Hegerberg will have written an extraordinary story of redemption.

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