How the actions at one of the world’s most prestigious events, created all the wrong reactions
WRITTEN BY PLAYROOM CREATIVE ADVISER
One step forward, two steps back. That’s not a dance move, that’s the best that can be said about last night’s gala event for France Football’s Ballon d’Or. In reality it was closer to one step forward, 62 years back.
The one step forward was that Norwegian Ada Hegerberg became the first-ever female recipient of the Ballon d’Or – the most prestigious individual prize available for players in the world’s most popular team sport. The Ballon d’Or was first awarded to the great Sir Stanley Matthews in 1956 and in the 62 years since then, players such as Di Stefano, Eusebio, Charlton, Best, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Zidane, Ronaldo and Messi have had the honour of receiving it.
Think what a reaction this event should have made on the world? It could have instigated long overdue change, it could have heralded a new dawn for women’s football and it certainly should have been the best night in Ada Hegerberg’s professional career. In 1956 it would have been unimaginable that women might come to be recognised as Hegerberg should have been last night.
But instead, the actions of the event organisers has created the worst possible reaction for everyone involved. Football looks like it is in the dark ages still, France Football magazine’s reputation has been tarnished and Hegerberg’s moment of glory has been deflected into a high profile moment in which the deep sexism that still remains in sport was exposed.
Many excuses have been made today, especially by DJ Martin Solveig, the most popular one being it was just a joke. It was a joke. It was a joke that the organisers decided it was a good idea that Ada Hegerberg should be asked to dance in the first place, let alone to be asked to dance in a sexually provocative manner “as a joke”.
Andy Murray, the male British tennis player who has been a champion of the women’s game, said this on Instagram.
"Why do women still have to put up with this shit? What questions did they ask Mbappe and Modric? I'd imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks people are overreacting and it was just a joke... It wasn't. I've been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal."
Regardless of Solveig’s total fuck-up, which being generous could have been unscripted, that nobody thought about how this moment might be inappropriate is absolutely beyond imagination. It is awkward at the very least, it is not what these people do - why would you get a sportsperson on stage and ask them to dance minutes after they have just found out that they have won the biggest prize of their lives? At some point this “moment” was a creative decision by the event team. Given how tight these shows need to run, it was almost certainly scripted as well.
Hegerberg took it incredibly well on the outside but you could tell that she was offended and embarrassed to be asked. It was also embarrassing to watch interviews of Hegereberg after the event that were only asking her one question, "what did you think about being asked to twerk?” Nobody was talking about football, and more importantly nobody has been celebrating women’s football today. Instead of people YouTubing videos of Hegerberg playing football – which many may have done having never seen the best woman in Europe play before – the whole planet has been Googling for a clip of a hugely inappropriate interview.
We talk a lot about actions and reactions. This is a perfect example of how important they are. If you Google “Ada Hegerberg” right now and click on videos, there aren’t any of her actually playing football on the first page. That is a travesty.
Here is Ada Hegerberg playing football. Turn the music off, it’s terrible.