Ada Hegerberg returns to Norway squad after five-year absence

Lyon star and Champions League record goalscorer ready to ‘get new story started’

Norway’s forward Ada Hegerberg at the 2015 Fifa World Cup. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

Ada Hegerberg has announced she will return to play for Norway at the Euros this summer after a close to five-year absence from the national team.

The Women’s Champions League record goalscorer and first female winner of the Ballon d’Or, in 2018, stepped away from international football after the last European Championship in 2017, where the 2013 runners-up crashed out with three defeats in three games and failed to score.

Hegerberg was Uefa’s Best Women’s Player in 2016 and BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2017 and her decision to make herself unavailable for international football created shockwaves. She had become frustrated at what she perceived as a lack of support for the women’s team and for the development of girls’ football in Norway.

She told the Guardian in November 2020 it was a decision she had carefully considered and was triggered by a number of issues including unequal opportunities for girls and boys to play football, women and girls being forced to wait to use pitches, boots arriving for a tournament late and in the wrong sizes and a boys’ team playing on the best pitch while the women’s team that had qualified for a World Cup had to train on an inferior pitch.


“I’ve just tried to have an impact on things for the better,” she said. “At some point that can leave you with some tough choices. I’m not here to provoke in any way. I’m just here to perform and drive the sport in the right direction. But at the same time, I am realistic about the situation we find ourselves still in, that there’s so much stuff to do in order for women and young girls to get the conditions they deserve.”

Hegerberg missed the World Cup in 2019 where Norway lost in the quarter-finals to England. She will report early next month for the World Cup qualifiers against Kosovo and Poland.

The 26-year-old said on Thursday: “I love football, and I want to play football. I took a decision in 2017 that I stood by. But I had lot of time to reflect over the past two years, on many aspects. I was able to have very honest discussions with the federation, through Lise [Klaveness, its president] at first. I am very glad to be able to come back with the team and get a new story started.”

The Norway Women manager, Martin Sjögren, said it had been “a challenging situation” to get Hegerberg back into the national team but that he was pleased with the outcome. Hegerberg said: “I want to do my part so that we reach our goals, and inspire both young girls and boys across the country. Now I can finally do it with the flag on my chest again.”

Klaveness welcomed the move and said: “It has not been a good feeling to have one of our best players outside the national team.”

Hegerberg has continued to shine for Lyon, her club since 2014, being named BBC Women's Football of the Year in 2019 and runner-up for Uefa's Best Women's Player in 2018 and 2019. The five-times Champions League winner holds the record for the most goals scored in a Champions League season: 15.

In January 2020, she suffered her first major injury, rupturing an ACL. She returned to the pitch 21 months later. – Guardian