Former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg led the backlash against Gianni Infantino on Friday after the FIFA president said women need to “pick the right battles” and “convince men” to enforce change.
She wrote ironically: “Working on a little presentation to convince men. Who’s in?”
Infantino had earlier hit back at critics at the FIFA Women’s Football Convention, saying that expanding the tournament to 32 teams has turned out to be a success and that “FIFA was right” to do so.
Working on a little presentation to convince men. Who’s in? 👩💼 https://t.co/rj7YDpYHsX
— Ada S Hegerberg (@AdaStolsmo) August 18, 2023
After praising the growth of the lower-ranked nations and highlighting the record-breaking broadcasting figures posted around the globe, the FIFA chief encouraged women to keep fighting for changes.
“I say to all the women — and you know I have four daughters, so I have a few at home — that you have the power to change,” he said, addressing the audience.
“Pick the right battles. Pick the right fights. You have the power to change. You have the power to convince us men what we have to do and what we don’t have to do. Just do it. With men, with FIFA, you’ll find open doors. Just push the doors.”
Players from several countries, including finalists Spain, have been in dispute with their federations in the build-up to the World Cup over pay and the treatment and professionalism afforded to the women’s national teams.
Before the World Cup, FIFA released guidance for federations on how much they should pay players from the prize pots depending on their progress in Australia and New Zealand, but there remains a huge discrepancy between the men’s and women’s tournaments.
The record $110 million (£86.1m) for this World Cup is well short of the $440m (£346m) on offer to teams at last year’s men’s event in Qatar, but Infantino said equal pay would not provide a quick fix.
“Equal pay at the World Cup? We are going in that direction already,” he added. “But that would not solve anything. It might be a symbol, but it would not solve anything, because it’s one month every four years and it’s a few players out of the thousands and thousands of players.
“We have to start treating women and men in the same way. Push the doors with FIFA, and do it at national level in every country, at continental level in every confederation, just keep pushing, keep the momentum going, keep dreaming, and let’s really go for a full equality.”
Speaking after Norway’s round-of-16 exit to Japan, Hegerberg called on federations to show their women’s teams more respect after the success of national teams such as Morocco, Jamaica and South Africa.
“More and more teams are here to show their best, and it’s tighter,” she said. “You can see it from both sides: Are the best teams evolving in the right direction? But you see that smaller nations are coming up and are doing great work, putting their spirit into it, and it’s great to see.
“I really hope it gives more nations more opportunities and more and more federations follow, because I know there are many nations that need more following and more respect from their federations.”