A French house DJ has blamed cultural differences and a language problem for kicking off a soccer sexism furore.
Martin Solveig said he was making a “joke” by suggesting Norway’s Ada Hegerberg twerk live on stage.
Hegerberg had just made history by winning the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best female soccer player at a Paris gala on Monday night (France time.) It was the first time in the event’s 62-year history that women had been acknowledged.
The “very proud” Norwegian striker, who beat 14 other nominees – including fifth-placed Australian Sam Kerr – turned away from Solveig when asked if she knew how to do the provocative dance made popular in 2013 by Miley Cyrus.
“No,” she said, seemingly trying to leave the stage.
Hegerberg, 23, who called the award a “huge step for women’s football” after women were acknowledged for the first time in 62 years, ended up dancing with Solveig to a Frank Sinatra song.
The French DJ, 42, apologised to Hegerberg and said she told him after the ceremony she “understood it was a joke”.
He wrote on Twitter, “Apologies to anyone who may have been offended. This was a joke, probably a bad one, and I want to apologise”.
Solveig said the issue “comes from a distortion of my English level and my English culture level, which is obviously not enough.”
He later posted a photo on Twitter of him shaking hands with Hegerberg.
I explained to @AdaStolsmo the buzz and she told me she understood it was a joke. Nevertheless my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly congratulations to Ada pic.twitter.com/DATdg0TfQk
— Martin Solveig (@martinsolveig) December 3, 2018
Hegerberg told BBC Sport she “didn’t consider it sexual harassment. He came to me afterwards and was really sad that it went that way.
“I didn’t really think about it at the time. I was just happy to do the dance and win the Ballon d’Or, to be honest.”
Still, Solveig was widely panned as “disrespectful” on social media, including by two-time Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray.
“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport,” Murray wrote in an Instagram story.
“Why do women still have to put up with that s––t?”
The twerking request was “absolute trash”, said Sports Illustrated reporter Grant Wahl.
Absolute trash: French DJ Martin Solveig asks Ada Hegerberg to twerk after receiving the first women's Ballon d'Or award. (Love her response, though.) This is the crap female athletes deal with on a daily basis around the world.pic.twitter.com/y2TLe3v4u9
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) December 3, 2018
Hegerberg was picked as the winner by a jury of 45 journalists. The star player scored a tournament-record 15 goals for Lyon in the Women’s Champions League this season.
Kerr, who won a slew of awards, including the ESPY gong for best international women’s soccer player in 2018, had posted to Instagram about her expectations for the Ballon d’Or before it kicked off.
“For the first time a woman will win football’s highest honour. So even if I don’t win, we will,” she said.
Dane Pernille Harder came second and German Dzsenifer Marozsan was third.
Despite the twerk furore, Hegerberg, who helped Lyon win the French title and scored in this year’s Champions League final, said it was “incredible” to be the first female winner.
“I wanted to end with some words for young girls around the world: believe in yourselves.”
Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric took out the men’s award, becoming the first player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to claim the trophy in more than a decade.