“The crowd came, they came to support him, which I find incredible,” Hegeberg told CNN’s Christina MacFarlane.
“Obviously I’m very focused before games and everything, but seeing the national team again and seeing all these young girls, these young boys showing up to watch us play, that’s something that touched me deeply. And that It was just a feeling of joy. I’m going to treasure that for a very long time.”
“I can clearly say that I never hope this happens to another player again, that you should be put in a position where you have to make a choice like that,” she said after returning to the side.
“But right now, I’ll never forget that. I think we should embrace the whole story. But at the same time, I’ve also moved on.”
‘A new chapter’
Despite these achievements, Hegerberg stayed out of the international arena, firmly maintaining her stance against the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF).
The pair played together when Hegerberg was early in his career, and she says talks with Klaveness were central to his return to the national team. They connected on their common difficulties with the federation and the challenges facing women’s football.
“I felt like I was growing during those talks, but I felt it was the right time to come back and play for my country again,” Hegerberg said.
“I really believe that Lise can be a very important figure and position to still shake things up so that young girls can be better taken care of in the future. I would absolutely support her all the way in order to bring the women’s football in the right direction. So it feels good.”
Since Hegerberg retired from the national team, the NFF has changed its approach to the women’s team.
Men and women now receive the same financial compensation for representing Norway following a deal that doubled women’s pay from 3.1 million Norwegian crowns ($330,739) to six million crowns ($640,150).
“Obviously, you have to remember not to repeat the same story, but I feel like it’s a new chapter, it’s in progress and it’s very refreshing too,” says Hegerberg.
“And obviously it’s back trying to build something because now you have really good players in Europe, girls from Norway.
“So I think now is the time to build stone by stone. And I’m also very motivated to take on some of the responsibility to keep pushing football in the right direction in Norway.”
“Give the conditions that the players deserve”
It’s not just in Norway that the conversation around women’s football has changed between Hegerberg’s last two international appearances.
Last month, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced that female footballers playing in Italy’s top women’s league – Serie A – would be classed as professional athletes, ending years of salary caps due to their status as footballers. amateur.
“I feel like we’re slowly starting to build momentum again to get back to that good rhythm we had before Covid hit us and we’re building more professionally,” Hegerberg said.
“Provide the conditions the players deserve and get a more professional day-to-day life so we can get even better and show even better football in the long run. It’s about pushing us players – we just have to really perform.”
Players are playing more and more on the biggest stages. Camp Nou – Barcelona’s home stadium – has sold out twice in recent months, setting back-to-back records for the highest attendance at a women’s game.
In March, 91,553 fans watched Barca beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and, less than a month later, 91,648 cheered their home side to a 5-1 victory over Wolfsburg in semi final.
“It’s great,” says Hegerberg. “That’s what you want to achieve in the game and to see those sales, the Camp Nou packed – it’s really amazing.
“That’s what we’re trying to achieve, every women’s club. We’ve seen some good trends. And now the big challenge is to get those people back into the stadiums week after week and get that stability that we need. ”
“Best part of the season”
Last season, without Hegerberg injured, Lyon failed to reach the Champions League final for only the third time in 10 years, ending the club’s five-year reign as European champions. Barcelona took advantage of Lyon’s absence and are now looking for a first consecutive title.
“Obviously Barcelona are a very strong team,” Hegerberg said. “You can see they’ve had time to develop their style of play together. They also play very possession-oriented football.”
Hegerberg is playing knockout football for the first time in three years after being sidelined for nearly two seasons with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in January 2020 and then a stress fracture in her left tibia.
“I just try to enjoy every day, every second with the ball and spring is here and the big games are coming,” she said. “So that’s probably also the best part of the season.”
After the Champions League final, Hegerberg is looking forward to the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Championship, her first major tournament after returning to Norway.
“It’s a tough tournament,” said Hegerberg. “It can go both ways. It’s about preparing in a very calm but focused way. And yes, we will be ready for anything. But we know from the past that we had a final in 2013 and then we experienced the very difficult Euros in 2017.”
Norway lost all three of their group matches in 2017, a disappointing run of results for a fourth-placed team at the start of the tournament.
This time around, Norway’s campaign kicks off with a game against Northern Ireland on July 7 as they seek to qualify for the knockout stages from a group that also contains Austria and Ireland. ‘England.
“It’s about learning from those experiences and being as prepared as possible,” says Hegerberg, “but also having fun because these tournaments are a highlight of your career.”