Scoring three goals in a span of 16 minutes, Ada Hegerberg once again stole the limelight on May 18 as she took Lyon to its fourth Champions League triumph, beating Barcelona 4-1 in the UEFA Women's Champions League final.

Hegerberg, who has more than 250 career goals to her name, became the first recipient of Ballon d’Or Feminin - also known as Women’s Ballon d’Or - last year for being the best female football player of the calendar year.

The Lyon star was asked on stage if she knew how to 'twerk' after being handed the trophy, which sparked controversy about football's pervasive misogyny.

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Frustrated by the state of women's football in her country Norway, Hegerberg stopped playing for the Norway national team two years ago. She hasn't played for Norway since it crashed out of the Euros in 2017.

"I've always respected men's footballers for what they earn. The gap is enormous, but at the same time you need to give young women and girls the same opportunity as the men. That's where we need to do the change," she said.

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Ada Hegerberg holds the Ballon d’Or Feminin, which she was awarded with last year.

 

"There are federations, there are clubs, there are men in high positions who have that responsibility to put the women in the right place and that's where I think, I feel, and I know, we have a long way to go."

Not long after Hegerberg stepped away from the team, Norway signed an equal pay agreement, with the men’s national team taking a pay cut to give the women a pay rise. But this deal was not enough to appease Hegerberg, who has remained apart from the team since 2017.

The 23-year-old has decided to skip the upcoming Women's World Cup too, to continue her protest against inequality faced by women in football.

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The absence of a notable player like Hegerberg should spark conversations but such has not been the case. Had the likes of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo decided to ditch the World Cup, there would have been outrage all over the globe.

Brazilian great Marta feels Hegerberg is paying a price of not playing for her country but this is more than just her fight- it is a fight for all women in the game.

“This was the way she found to protest but in my opinion this must be made collectively,” Orlando Pride attacker Marta, who holds the record for most World Cup goals with 15, said. “If I’m alone I can’t change the world, I need all of you, mainly my fellow players so that things can evolve.

“What I mean is that Ada is paying a price of not playing for her country but this fight of hers is a fight of all of us. 

“She doesn’t have to carry this responsibility alone. It was a very strong attitude. For me to do this, I’d need to have my fellow players’ support as it has already happened here in the US, with female athletes together to fight for things to get better in many ways. That’s it.”

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United States fans hold up an equal pay sign during an international friendly match between the United States woman's national team and the New Zealand women's national team.

 

On the eve of International Women's Day this year, the US national team filed a lawsuit against its own governing body, the US Soccer Federation, alleging years of “institutionalized gender discrimination”.  The lawsuit seeks equal pay and treatment, in addition to damages including back pay.

According to the Sporting Intelligence annual salary survey in 2017, the combined pay of those playing in the top seven women’s football leagues equalled that of a single male footballer, the Brazilian forward Neymar.

Neymar earned £32.9m from PSG for the 2017-18 season solely for his playing contract, without taking into account the money he earned in commercial deals. His salary was almost exactly the same as 1,693 female players in France, Germany, England, the US, Sweden, Australia and Mexico combined.

Earlier in May this year, the UEFA launched its first-ever women's football strategy, aiming to double the number of female players in Europe by 2024. It commits UEFA to a five-year strategic framework with the aim of supporting, guiding and lifting both women's football and the position of women in football across Europe.