The Ballon d’Or is an annual football (or soccer, as we’d say in the US) award presented by France Football. It has been awarded since 1956, though 2018 marks the first year that a Women’s Ballon D’Or has been held. The first ever female winner of the Ballon D’Or, Ada Hegerberg, forward for Lyon and Norway, was excited to receive the award. Unfortunately, the event was marred by host Martin Solveig’s inappropriately timed joke.


After accepting their awards, Ballon D’Or recipients would perform a short dance on stage together with the host. Already an ill-conceived concept, the situation was made worse when Solveig asked Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk… the music was by Frank Sinatra.

A four-second clip of the interaction, depicting Solveig’s question and Hegerberg’s seemingly annoyed reaction, devoid of any other context, quickly made its rounds on social media. Watch the full clip, courtesy of BBC, below.

Out of context, without knowledge that another winner previously did a dance before Hegerberg accepted her award, it’s easy to see how this could be considered sexist. Following the spread of the clip, Solveig faced thousands of comments on Twitter calling for him to be “fired” and calling him a “sexist pig.”

Over the last day, Solveig has issued three separate apologies.

“I explained to [Ada] and she told me she understood it was a joke,” Solveig wrote. “Nevertheless, my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly, congratulations to Ada.”

On the carpet after the awards, Hegerberg was asked about the incident and admitted it was an “ill-conceived” joke but didn’t see it at all as sexist.

“He came to after the presentation and apologized,” she said. “I didn’t take it that way at all. I got to dance a bit and I got the Ballon D’Or, and that’s all that was in my mind. It was nothing special. […] It didn’t come to my mind at all. I think there are a lot of other subjects to discuss if we talk about sexual matters.”

Andy Murray was among those on social media who criticised Solveig’s comment, notes The Guardian, calling it “another example of the ridiculous sexism in sport.”

“What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?” the British tennis player added on Instagram. “I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”