May moves to prevent rash of resignations
Downing Street is warning Brexiters that rejecting Theresa May’s deal on Tuesday will drive Britain towards a permanent customs union with the EU, as the government tries to forestall a rash of resignations before next week’s historic vote.
The prime minister will spend the weekend at her Chequers country retreat before embarking on what some at Westminster believe could be the closing act of her premiership.
With the parliamentary arithmetic looking unremittingly bleak for May, several Brexit-backing aides have warned her that they are prepared to resign on Tuesday unless there are major changes to her deal. Leavers are concerned about the Irish backstop, in which they fear Britain could be trapped indefinitely.
Mike Wood, the parliamentary private secretary
Ada Hegerberg on that twerking furore and what the Ballon d’Or means for women
The footballer Ada Hegerberg says she wants to be remembered as the first woman to win football’s Ballon d’Or, after the moment she collected the biggest individual prize in football was marred by the male compere of the awards ceremony asking her if she would like to twerk on stage.
“It got out of hand and I want the attention to be on the historic moment for the Ballon d’Or and what it meant for me,” said Hegerberg, 23.
The elite of football gathered on Monday night in Paris to crown a new king, and for the first time in its 62-year history, a queen. The Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual prize in the men’s game, won by either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi for the preceding 10 years, was lifted aloft by the World Cup finalist Luka Modrić.
And the new era also saw the inaugural women’s prize picked up by Hegerberg – a Norwegian striker who plays for Lyon, with almost 300 career goals, four French league titles and a hat-trick of Coupe de France trophies and of Champions League titles.
As Hegerberg collected her prize, she gave a speech with the message for young girls all over the world to “please, believe in yourselves”.
At which the host, the French DJ Martin Solveig, asked the recordbreaking goal-scorer “do you know how to twerk?”. Cool-headed as ever, Hegerberg replied with a curt “no” and turned to leave and, in that moment, a viral clip was born.
Fury ensued. The tennis star Andy Murray, a vocal supporter of women’s rights, was one of the first to voice his anger, describing levels of sexism within sport as “unreal”.
“Why do women still have to put up with that shit. What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modrić? I’d imagine something to do with football,” Murray said on Instagram.
Hegerberg, speaking to the Guardian about her latest place in the history books, said it was important that “outrage is there in every situation where that theme comes up”, but was keen to tilt things away from the sexism row and what it says about the industry, and back to what the award represents.
“It was an amazing night for women in general and women who play football. I really want to say thank you to France Football for putting it in place, I know it’s 2018 and it’s been a long time coming, but at the same time it’s important to show what a big step forward this is for women’s football.
“It was, and is, quite emotional to be honest,” she said. “I try not to use the word proud too often but I was really proud, because I was in a position to promote women’s football and that’s what I’m passionate about.
“It’s a night when we celebrate the best footballers in the world, male and female. They’re the same as us, we’ve been working hard every day to achieve things like this. The mutual respect is there. There is no difference.
“That’s what’s so nice about nights like this because it puts both sexes up front, and that’s how it should be.”
Of the 15 nominees for the inaugural award, seven were from Lyon, a testament to the five-times European champions. “It shows the mentality in the group,” said Hegerberg.
“I call it a team award as much as an individual award. I know I’ve had some fantastic seasons, but we’ve achieved great things together.”
On Wednesday night Hegerberg was applauded by almost 60,000 fans as she took to Lyon’s Groupama Stadium pitch. “It was fantastic to go home to my home pitch, a fantastic stadium, in front of great fans. It shows they appreciate the football,” said Hegerberg.
“That’s the philosophy from [Lyon owner] Jean-Michel Aulas and the club, it’s a modern way to think.
“We have everything we need to perform at the highest level, that’s why I feel like the club should be seen as an example. This isn’t something Aulas has built in one year, it was a project, he was patient and now he has the best team. It pays off.”
For serial winners, you might imagine staying motivated would be hard. But Hegerberg describes winning and scoring as an addiction: “When you first win a trophy you want to do it again and again. It keeps you hungry. People wonder what you are going to do after you’ve won the Champions League three times? Win it again, if I can. That’s what defines the best athletes, being capable of showing up year after year at the highest level.”
Last season the striker scored 15 Champions League goals, a record, and matched Ronaldo’s tally for the same duration. With 41 goals in 41 games she is 10 shy of the all-time Champions League record held by Anja Mittag of Germany, but setting that as a target for this term is looking too far ahead.
“I don’t think too much about how many goals I’m going to target. I work really hard and prepare really well for the season to come … I know when I’m well prepared, when I’ve worked hard, the results will come.”
Missing from her cabinet is international acclaim, and that is a situation unlikely to change. Having stepped back from the Norwegian national team in 2017, dismayed by the lack of commitment of the Norwegian Football Federation to women’s football, the Ballon d’Or winner will not be seen at the World Cup in France next summer. But to her, principles matter.
“I wouldn’t be the player I am today if I didn’t stand for my values, what I’m passionate about and what I believe in. It’s easy to lose yourself on the road and you have to take some tough decisions to stay true to yourself.”
She is animated discussing the future of women’s football and what is needed for its growth. “Our job is to work hard. Every woman player has a responsibility to work hard and stay out of your comfort zone every day to deliver good football. We need to continue to deliver good football … so that in the end they can’t see through us, they have to see the value in it.
“There’s a long way to go, there are small fights and bigger fights we need to [have]. We don’t have to be alone in this, we need help from bigger organisations, from men as well, who have the power to help make a difference.”
‘It got out of hand. I want the attention to be on the historic moment for the Ballon d’Or’
Ada Hegerberg at Lyon’s Groupama Stadium and, right, in action against Pernille Harder of VfL Wolfsburg