Why the world’s best player won’t be playing at the Women’s World Cup

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The best player on the best club team in women’s soccer won’t be playing at the crown jewel of women’s soccer, the ever growing and expanding FIFA Women’s World Cup.

And it’s not because her nation didn’t qualify for the tournament. It did.

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Striker Ada Hegerberg has not played for her native Norway since 2017, protesting what she states is gender discrimination from the Norwegian FA between how it treats the men’s national team and the women’s team. While staying away from the Norwegian National Team, Hegerberg has continued to blossom as a star for the best team in the world, Lyon. In the past three seasons, she’s scored a combined 97 goals in all competitions, including an incredible 46 goals in 2017-2018 in both Ligue 1 and the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Obviously, Norway, despite qualifying for this World Cup without Hegerberg, could gain from her re-joining the squad, but according to Norway’s coach, Martin Sjögren, Hegerberg rejected his requests.

“It was tough on so many training camps,” Hegerberg told Norwegian sports magazine Josimar. “I’ve been broken mentally. There has been a deep depressive feeling. I had nightmares after having been with the national team. One should not have such things. If you want to get anywhere in life, make some choices. As soon as the thought came into my head: I think I must quit the national team…then just run everything off. I started to sleep well again.”

In the months after Hegerberg’s decision, which came after the 2017 European Championships, Norway’s FA adjusted their payscale to give the women’s team a higher salary and bonuses. However, it hasn’t moved Hegerberg and she looks ready to spend the rest of her career away from the national team.

Hegerberg also said to Josimar that despite some of the changes, she feel’s there’s a need for new leadership at the top. Hegerberg described her experience as the women’s team not being taken seriously by the FA, and that she and her sister, a fellow Norwegian international, were admonished for showing up to a team dinner late because they were signing autographs.

Initially, there was support for Hegerberg from even the men’s national team players, but with Hegerberg remaining away and the World Cup approaching, that could be starting to change.

Hopefully, there will be a resolution in the future between Hegerberg and the Norway FA, but for now, it’s Lyon’s gain and the world’s loss that Hegerberg, the first winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or, won’t be at the World Cup.