Ada Hegerberg leads Lyon to Champions League title - but she won’t be at the Women’s World Cup
At 23, Ada Hegerberg is carving out a career with all the hallmarks of greatness.
In her five seasons at Olympique Lyonnais, she has won the French league trophy every single year.
Heading into the UEFA 2019 Champions League Final, the striker had scored 178 goals across 168 appearances at club level.
That's now 181 in 169.
Hederberg was too hot to handle as Lyon humbled Barcelona 4-1 in the final in Budapest, the Norwegian sensation adding her fourth consecutive Champions League trophy to the collection.
“I feel all the top athletes at highest level today manage to recreate history (and) to stay at the highest level as long as possible,” she said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.
“That’s something that really motivates me.”
The first ever women’s Ballon d’Or winner sat down to talk about growing up in Norway, training sessions with her dad, and the disagreement with her national team that mean she won't be at the France 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Podcast: Ada Hegerberg – the footballer dominating Europe
Podcast: Ada Hegerberg – the footballer dominating EuropeThe Norwegian striker is going for her fourth consecutive Champions League title and has broken goal records consistently. The Olympic Channel Podcast spoke to her about equality in the women’s football, the Ballon d’Or win, and her ambitions with club Olympique Lyonnais.
Top quotes from Ada Hegerberg interview with Olympic Channel podcast
Olympic Channel Podcast: With the Ballon d’Or win, there are comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Did you always have natural talent or was it something you had to work on?
Ada Hegerberg: I think I had a talent when I was younger. We figured out quite fast that I had this sense for goal and for turning towards the goal and shooting. It’s just about taking care of that talent. My success comes from hours of repetition - especially with my family. We are a crazy football family. I have always been training my dad, my mum, my sister, and my brother. It’s been about the basics: touch, passing, finishing, dribbling, the same stuff we have been doing for years. That’s what has made me the player I am today.
Ada Hegerberg: How the Norway star became one of the best in the world
Ada Hegerberg: How the Norway star became one of the best in the worldHer hat-trick in the 2019 UEFA Champions League final sealed her fourth straight European title with Lyon. The striker has also won the French league title five times, and been awarded a Ballon d’Or. She's only 23. Ahead of that Champions League final Hegerberg she spoke to Olympic Channel about where she grew up, why she doesn’t play for Norway anymore and won't be at the FIFA Women's World Cup, plus her fight for equality in women’s football.
Back in Norway
I saw a photo you posted on Instagram of you and your dad. What do you do when you go back home?
We train. So that’s kind of vacation for me because I get time to train on specific thing that I normally don’t do during the season. We start a little bit with passing, all about creating angles, especially when there are three of us [Ada, her sister Andrine, and their dad]. You always need to find a good angle, to find a good pass, and I think it is all about thinking simple football all the time. We don’t do three, four, five hours of training. It’s like one hour with quality. That’s been our tactics since we were little kids. When we were preparing for cups and everything, we would be waking up at 6am... like that. We think outside the box a bit.
How do you ‘think outside the box’?
We live in a society where it’s easy to start thinking like everyone else. But my family never thought that way. We always followed the path we thought was best for development. So, that’s the voice I was given to always follow my voice and to use that voice.
Absence from national team
Do you know about Janteloven? How have you experienced that growing up in a small town in Norway having those big ambitions?
You come to a certain point where you need to ask yourself: Do I need to go abroad to actually experience something bigger? For me, the choice was clear. I had to take the next step. So I went to Germany when I was 17, which is quite young. But that was the thing that felt right for me at that time. I think it is all about being humble about the work you put down and about the people around you. But you should never be called anything because you believe in yourself and you want to follow your own path to succeed. I have always been a person that has been really curious about how people succeed and how cultures are built up. So, having that curiosity also helped me to explore something new and bigger that can help me reach the highest level.
"I’m still a proud Norwegian" - Ada Hegerberg on absence from national team
So, you felt that even at the highest national level in Norway you were being pulled down?
I think the culture is being pulled down. The culture of winning, the culture of putting the women’s [game] in a good spot of development. And there is a tonne of work to do still. Like I said, I tried to make an impact as much as I could over the years when I was still playing for the national team but it didn’t seem to work. It didn’t seem like they wanted to listen or keep pushing for it.
I’m still a proud Norwegian. I love my country. I miss representing my country and that explains the whole situation I feel, because I didn’t ask to be in this position. But that’s the reality. So, I have to take the choice of being in this situation. That connection to Norway is the same as always. It’s just that I don’t play for the national team.
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Lyon and equal pay with the male players as a step towards gender equality
Talking about Lyon, what can other clubs learn from what has been done here in terms of women’s football?
It comes down to one man, basically. And that’s our president. Everything you see around women’s football, he is the man behind it. So, we have him to thank. I’m really inspired by him because he believed in us when no one did. It’s all about if you really want something badly, and you give it time, it will give you success because this team didn’t win a trophy overnight. But he put time and commitment into it, and now he has maybe got the world’s best team.
So, it’s not just about equal pay?
I try to not talk that much about money when I talk about making a difference, because it’s so much bigger than that as well. The respect and the attitude about women, women playing football. I think that’s a more important place to start. And then, you have economy. I never expect to earn as much as the Ballon d’Or men do. I never played football for the money, because I knew there wasn’t any. But small step by step giving us what we’ve earned, what we deserve is a better place to start, because I don’t think most of the female players get what they deserve today.
"I don’t think most of the female players get what they deserve today" - Ada Hegerberg On equality in women's football
Let’s talk about that night. Just explain how it felt to lift that very first Women’s Ballon d’Or trophy?
Amazing. It was amazing for football and women in general. I think it was a historical night for everyone. I had so much interest coming from all over the world. That really moved me. Not only by being world’s best footballer, it was being at the centre of such a historical moment. I’m quite passionate about my sport and I have done everything I can in order to try and move it in the right direction. Being a woman in sport is a challenge. It is as simple as that. And it’s all about pushing for equality. So, standing there in the middle of such a historical night, it gave me goosebumps. It gave me tears and gave me an enormous motivation to continue.
Ada Hegerberg is the guest on this week's Olympic Channel Podcast.
Each week we find the biggest athletes and speakers athletes to talk about the Olympics.
The interview and questions have been edited and condensed for ease of reading.