(This June 5 story has been refiled to add attribution to Morgenbladet in paragraphs 3 and 10)
(Reuters) – Women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg says she quit the Norwegian national team after being left “mentally broken” and suffering nightmares, but her comments brought a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard.
Olympique Lyonnais forward Hegerberg, 23, will work at the women’s World Cup in France as a TV pundit instead of leading the Norway attack, having said previously she quit international football in 2017 due to a dispute with her home federation about how women’s football is treated in the country.
“It was tough at so many camps. I have been broken mentally,” Ada Hegerberg told Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet and soccer magazine Josimar.
“It has been a deeply depressing feeling. I had nightmares after being with the national team, you shouldn’t have things like that. If you want to get anywhere in life you have to make choices.
“Immediately the thought came into my mind – ‘I think I’ll have to stop playing for the national team’. (Then) everything just ran off and I started to sleep well again.”
The Norwegian association has since agreed to double the remuneration pot for women from 3.1 million Norwegian crowns ($354,987) to 6 million crowns, but Hegerberg remains steadfast in her decision to boycott the national side.
She told CNN last month this was a cause she believed in.
“I was really honest with the national team representative. What I felt wasn’t good enough – it’s not good enough,” she said.
Odegaard, however, questioned the timing of the Josimar/Morgenbladet interview, coming shortly before Norway open their World Cup campaign against Nigeria on Saturday.
“Maybe you can find something better to do than destroy the national team’s preparations for the World Cup?” the winger said in an Instagram post on Wednesday.
“They have qualified for the World Cup with their country (among the greatest things a footballer can experience) and they have already had enough negative attention. They deserve better.
“That you choose to do an interview like this is completely incomprehensible. The timing is terrible. The choice not to play for Norway is yours, but respect Norway and our national team. It’s enough now,” added Odegaard, who has been on loan at Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.
Hegerberg’s representatives told Reuters she will not respond to Odegaard’s comments.
Norway have been drawn in Group A at the World Cup that also includes hosts France and South Korea.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)