Why Ballon d'Or Winner Ada Hegerberg Isn't Playing in the Women's World Cup

Hegerberg won the first women's Ballon d'Or in 2018 but is sitting out the Women's World Cup as she protests inequality in the Norwegian federation. 
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Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg is arguably the best women's soccer player alive after winning the Ballon d'Or in 2018. However, fans won't be able to see the 23-year-old in action during the Women's World Cup.

Hegerberg won't be out of action due to injury. She is opting to sit out of the tournament as she continues a two-year protest against inequality in women's soccer, most notably in her home country of Norway, which did enter into an equitable pay agreement in 2017 but still hasn't reached the standard of equality that Hegerberg is hoping to see. 

Hegerberg has not played for the Norwegian national team since the summer of 2017. 

"I was trying to make an impact [on Norway] for a lot of years, and I could see that in this system, in the federation, it didn't fit me at all. I feel like I was placed in a system where I didn't have a voice," Hegerberg told ESPN's Bonnie Ford on Wednesday. "I felt this weight on my shoulders more and more: This isn't working. When you're quite sure about yourself and the values and where you want to go, it's easy to make difficult choices. For me at that point, being able not to lose myself and not to lose what I believe in, I had to take that choice. I couldn't go any other way."

The disparity in treatment between men's and women's teams extends outside of Norway. The United States women's national team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation on March 8, citing, "institutionalized gender discrimination," highlighting not just pay but also issues like medical treatment and transportation. 

"[The USWNT's] got the guts, and they're together about it," Hegerberg told Ford. "That's the next thing. Women need to back women in cases like this, even more than we do today. If each woman stands up and uses her voice, imagine how many voices would be together and how strong a mass that would be."

Without Hegerberg, Norway got off to a strong start in France, beating Nigeria 3-0 in the opening match of group play.

For more on Hegerberg's absence, watch the video above, from SI's Grant Wahl in France.