Ada Hegerberg Martin Solveig Balon D'Or Sexism Women's Football

I can’t believe I’m going to talk about a fat, unshaven Muslim man again, but here we are. Remember Abdul the Geordie from the Richard Keys rant a few weeks ago? Well, he’s back! As those diehard followers of this column will remember, he waddled on stage to launch into horrifically sexist jokes. Actually, I take that back: that’s being unfair to jokes. Even if you enjoy that type of content – in which case you can go fuck yourself – it was appalling.

Well, it turns out his spirit lives on in some complete non-entity of a French DJ. Yet another circle jerk of football’s rich and famous was hosted by Martin Solveig (no, no idea either) this week. That’s right, a DJ was hosting a football awards ceremony. Because, erm, there were no actual presenters capable of standing on a stage one assumes… Gary Lineker’s agent must be fuming right now.

Anyhow, the flashing lights and dance music probably suited him and his sleazy, 1970s continental porno moustache. Solveig’s, not Lineker’s. Not that I can speak for Saint Gary’s preference when it comes to genre and era of adult entertainment. Christ, why are we even thinking about porn and ol’ jug ears? Moving swiftly on…

Ada Hegerberg: Professional footballer, or part-time twerker?

Ada Hegerberg made history by claiming the first ever women’s Ballon d’Or trophy but instead was asked to twerk. I don’t know why I am retelling you this: you know what happened. The overt sexism of asking the woman to shake her bottom and not the skinny, ugly Croatian man is clear. Sorry Luka, but you’re not exactly a looker mate.

A brief analysis shows Hegerberg is a phenomenal success in the women’s game: a deserving recipient of the award. She’s scored over a goal a game for French powerhouses Lyon, having made her international debut at 15. She’s in her 10th season of professional football despite still only being 23 years old.

To have the moment that belonged to not just her but women’s football so ‘casually’ undercut was quite frankly shit. Kylian Mbappe’s expression of disbelief mirrored everyone. Mbappe himself did a dance when on stage, but there’s a pretty big difference between his irritatingly smooth moves and explicitly twerking.

Broader attitudes in women’s football

I’m not a big watcher of the women’s game, I’ll be honest. Nor should anybody be unless they want to. The truth is the standard is not as high as the men’s game across the board. How can it be without the years of infrastructure, money and coverage the men’s game has enjoyed? That doesn’t mean it deserves to be demeaned by a complete nobody.

I have two young daughters, who are very interested in football, and I want them to enjoy the sport. Well, I say that; I dragged them both to a second-tier Siberian match against CSKA Moscow reserves, and they didn’t mind it. Their chances, should they choose to play, are slim given the obstacles that would be in their way. I once asked their kindergarten teacher if they play. Her reply? “That’s just for boys. They can do Irish dancing instead.”

Over here in Russia, women’s football is not well covered. In fact, Enisey Krasnoyarsk’s rock-bottom women’s team promised to pose naked if they won their Premier League. Harmless fun, eh? Their male counterparts have been trumpeting how they have the “most beautiful doctor in the world”. Wearing a short, low-cut dress, she gives injury news each week. She just happens to be young and photogenic, right?

That’s the depths they have to sink to just to gain recognition of any kind though. All men’s clubs post copious picture galleries of the prettiest girls in the stands. You can try and convince yourselves that this is just something that happens in backwards Russia. The truth is, it’s still an issue even in France, with arguably continental Europe’s most advanced women’s football league.

Over in South America, Colombian club Atletico Huila won the Copa Libertadores Femenina. Their reward? A seven-hour sleep on the airport floor and their $55,000 prize fund channelled directly to the men’s team. They have had to negotiate a deal to share the prize money. Hang on: what the actual fuck? How are they even having to negotiate anything?

Poor apology

There is more that ticks me off though about this Hegerberg/Solveig affair. Why in god’s name was a washed-up performer fronting the Ballon d’Or in the first place? In his world, girls routinely strip to the bare minimum in the name of titillation. It follows that he would make a hilarious comment like this.

Even if we forgive the moron for his lapse in basic human awareness, his apology was shite. Scratch that: his apology didn’t exist. Moments after the ceremony, he published a video in which he offered “sincere apologies to the one I may have offended”. Her name is Ada Hegerberg, you cretin. You know, the one you introduced on stage? He even went a step further by blaming his comments on a poor command of English, despite having spoken in French. 

If Solveig was genuine in his apology, by definition using the word ‘may’ is redundant. If you’re not sure or don’t believe, the offence was intended, what are you apologising for? This isn’t semantics. It’s the language of someone who feels unfairly coerced into it, not genuine contrition.

Nobody should be obliged to watch or follow women’s football. Equally, nobody is asking that. Just stamp out this hilarious attitude, and let both the men’s and women’s games grow.