Your Curated Guide to Women's Sports

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, AP Women's Soccer
Twitter: @AnnieMPeterson

Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, High Post Hoops
Twitter: @HowardMegdal

Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, NWHL Broadcaster
Twitter: @ELindsay08
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What a twerk—Jill Ellis interview—must-click woso links

It was the sexist shot heard 'round the soccer world. The first women’s Ballon d’Or should have been a celebratory day for the game. A day that could have spurred conversations about REAL equity, beyond just equal pay. But instead it was all about twerking.

Ada Hegerberg was a worthy recipient of the Ballon d’Or, not just for her soccer prowess but also her personal conviction. Most of you know her story. 

Hegerberg stepped away from Norway’s national team last year because of what she believed was a lack of commitment to the women’s game. Her move came despite the national team’s historic decision to pay its senior men’s and women’s teams equally (Norway’s men took a pay cut).

To Hegerberg, it was about more than just money. The women’s team had made an inauspicious exit from the Euros, crashing out of the competition without scoring a single goal. She wanted Norway's women to enjoy the same dedication to success that the men’s team enjoyed, and she wasn’t seeing it. 

So, at least for now, Hegerberg won’t be on the field next year at the World Cup in France. 

She told The Associated Press she has no plans to reconsider. 

“A lot of things need to be done to make the conditions better for women who play football,” she said. “It’s all about how we respect women’s football. I don’t think the respect has been there. Sometimes you have to take tough decisions to stay true to yourself. I let them know, quite clearly, what I found wasn’t working.”

Hegerberg has been labeled by some in her native country as a “diva” for her stand — because of course she has. Sigh, more sexism. 

Norweigian federation officials have said they are still willing to have a conversation with her. And they really should, because she’s just 23 and getting better before our eyes. Last season she had a record 15 Champions League goals — a new record — for Lyon, which defeated Wolfsburg in the final.

But all of this was overshadowed by twerking, which was sad. Afterward, Hegerberg clearly didn’t want the controversy to taint the first Ballon d’Or for women, or her inspiring message from the stage aimed at young girls, but it seemed it already had.

I’m glad French DJ Martin Solveig faced an avalanche of immediate criticism from all over the sports world. (Thanks, Andy Murray). That’s a bit of progress there. And I’m glad he apologized and saw the error in his comments. That’s progress too.

Now let’s do better, and focus the attention on where it should be, on raising the game.

Next week we'll take a look at the World Cup draw. (My sympathies are with England.) I promise. 

This Week in Women's Soccer

There was so much good WOSO content this week with the draw and everything, I can't post everything here, but here is just a sampling.

Suzanne Wrack for the Guardian on Hegerberg and the controversy. Also, the Guardian's Marina Hyde weighs in here.

And one more from the Guardian, and it's a significant one: the 100 best female footballers. 

Wrack's piece on Afghanistan's women's team prompted some changes, detailed here and here.

My colleague John Leicester's wonderful post-twerk column

My colleague Gerald Imray on the state of women's soccer in Africa. 

I wrote about the draw from afar with my colleague in Paris, Jerome Pugmire. 

Alex Morgan was named USSF Player of the Year.  I voted! Where's my sticker?

Ahead of the draw, Julie Foudy took on FIFA

Stephanie Yang in The Athletic on the W-League and the NWSL

Y'all, The Equalizer had so much amazing content surrounding the draw I can't link it all here. Just go visit the site. And if you can, sign up to get the premium content. Worth every penny. 

It has nothing to do with soccer, but James Corden parodied Thank you, Next. Except with Jeff Goldblum. Gave me a laugh


Tweet of the week!

Five at The IX:

So hey everyone! Some of you heard my technical difficulties on Jill Ellis' conference call with reporters following the draw. My phone hates Portland. However, I did get the first three questions before my phone dropped the call (U.S. Soccer came back to me for the final question but that's for a story I'm working on). So I thought you might want to see what Ellis said at the start, which kind of gives you the gist of the call.  

"I think, exactly to your first point, there is no easy path. So predicting and anticipating -- you know, first and foremost you get out of the group. I feel good about the group, in terms of just the order of the games. Feel good about the logistics of the group in terms of where we are and the travel in between. Also we start a little later in the tournament. All of those things give us a little more preparation time and obviously shortened travel and increased recovery time. So I think all of those things are positive. Two opponents we've played a little bit, but not a whole lot  and obviously Sweden that we've played extensively, like in every World Cup. I think it's a good balance. You want to play teams, especially Sweden in the last game, that are going to get you ready for the knockout stages. I think it's a good group. Beyond that you can speculate, but ultimately we've got to play good teams to win this thing. We know that. I feel fantastic about the depth on this team. I really think a part of winning this thing is having players available and I think we've added depth and the ability to rotate players. And I think it sets us up very well. The obvious master stroke here is we've got to execute and that's on us. We'll be prepared and ready to go." 

"Obviously, the first and second games, you set that scenario up. We were talking, it's like England and Belgium in the men's World Cup. (Both teams had already reached the knockout stage, the game was for placement and the coaches tweaked their lineups). I think in terms of navigating that last game and decisions, that's something we'll deal with then and there. What I will say, that typically with this group, in terms of their attitude and preparation, they want to win every game. So I think that bolsters our confidence. So I don't think right now there's an initial thought to look at that game as something we can potentially manipulate. I think we look at that game as we want to win it so we can continue to build the confidence. Again, I think its a lot of speculation, but ultimately we've got to get maximum points in the first two games to make decisions in the third one."

"The Sweden crew stopped on the red carpet, the media crew, and they said, `What do you think of the potential of getting Sweden?' and  I said `Oh, we will.' So actually when it came to that, I thought at last I may be prophetic at something. I think it's kind of anticipated. In that second group of teams, there's not one you'd really pick if you had to prioritize one over the other. I think Sweden is a good matchup for us, in terms of being a team that is going to slow the tempo a bit and sit in on us a bit. I think we are further along on the track of being able to manage that scenario if it is presented to us with our personnel. At the end of the day it's two teams _ they have a new coach, they have some new faces and they have some familiar faces, as do we. So I think it's going to be a game that is pretty tactical. As far as contenders, there's a lot of really good teams. I was telling the Spanish coach, they have a tough group but they have a really good team. They're a team that's come along and that's why we tried to get them on our schedule in January. So I think Spain, obviously France, being the host nation. The England-Scotland matchup is going to be interesting, having just played Scotland. But I think England has the depth to go deep in the tournament. And I think there's going to be some surprises. China's just a tough team to play and they always manage to get to the knockout stages, so there could be teams getting out of groups that people don't expect. And obviously Germany, they're a fantastic team and opponent. They're so seasoned, I think they have to be a team you look at. I don't know if I missed any one. Japan. I think the sum of their parts is so good they can deal with potential injuries or suspensions int he tournament and nothing ever changes for them. They're always going to be a team that can continue to go deep. Overall I think it's so different than it was even two World Cups ago, with the depth and the talent and the level of the players and the teams. Someone asked if this was going to be the hardest World Cup to win and I thought I said that the last time. But yeah, I think every World Cup should be better than the one before. And I mean biggger in terms of media, in terms of quality teams. I think it's going to be a spectacular World Cup. I surely anticipate that."
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