The 23-year-old Norway international Hegerberg, who fired Lyon to the Champions League with 42 club goals in 25 games last season, used her acceptance speech to explain her hope that the recognition she received on Monday night will inspire the next generation of female footballers to believe in themselves, only for the controversy to overshadow the occasion.
Solveig, who was playing music throughout the ceremony in the French capital, followed Hegerberg’s speech by asking: “Do you know how to twerk?”
Hegerberg looked unimpressed with the question, before answering “no”, turning and abruptly walking away. She told reporters afterwards that she “understood it was a joke” and “didn’t consider it sexual harassment” despite ‘twerking’ being a sexually provocative dance move, but it caused an outcry among the football community that deemed Solveig’s comments unacceptable.
The clip quickly went viral on social media as viewers expressed their outrage at the incident, on what was an historic night for women’s football.
French football writer Jeremy Smith tweeted: “Wow – Martin Solveig asks Ada Hegerberg – who has just won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or – if she can twerk. Her reaction is as you would expect.”
Another football journalist, Dan Levine, tweeted: “Pointless being outraged at the Ballon d’Or result. A popularity contest, monopolised by an electoral college controlled by sponsors & agents. Always will be. Save your outrage for sexist s***bag Martin Solveig – asking women’s winner Ada Hegerberg if she could twerk for him.”
Solveig was quick to apologise after his actions provoked furious criticism on social media.
Accompanied by a video apologising further to Hegerberg, Solveig wrote on Twitter: “Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended.
“My point was: I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence.
“People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women.”
The men’s award was won by Real Madrid midfielder and Croatia captain Luka Modric, while the Kopa Trophy for the best young player was won by PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.
More about: Ballond’Or