Why the best female soccer player is skipping the Women's World Cup

Ada Hegerberg is a Norwegian striker and the first-ever female winner of the Ballon d'Or – but you won’t see her playing for her home country at the World Cup over the next month.

Hegerberg, 23, told Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet and soccer magazine Josimar on Wednesday she quit the international competition in 2017 due to a dispute with the country’s soccer federation about how women’s soccer is treated.

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The world’s best player won’t be at the Women’s World Cup. (Balazs Czagany/MTI via AP, File)

The world’s best player won’t be at the Women’s World Cup. (Balazs Czagany/MTI via AP, File)

“It was tough at so many camps. I have been broken mentally,” Hegerberg said, according to Reuters. “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.”

She added: “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 soccer federation reached an agreement with Norway’s players’ association for an equal pay deal between men and women in December 2017, months after Hegerberg left the national team.

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Norway’s soccer federation is also headed by a female sporting director – Lise Klaveness – who now splits her time between the country’s men’s and women’s teams.

Hegerberg still didn’t return to the team and chose to become a pundit on the sidelines in Paris instead.

 Ada Hegerberg celebrates with the Women's Ballon d'Or award during the Golden Ball award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris, France in 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

 Ada Hegerberg celebrates with the Women's Ballon d'Or award during the Golden Ball award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris, France in 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

“A lot of things need to be done to make the conditions better for women who play football,” Hegerberg told the Associated Press last year.

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Hegerberg had scored 38 goals in 66 appearances for Norway. She helped Norway reach the round of 16 in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but the team lost to England.

Norway is currently No. 12 in the FIFA World Cup rankings and play Nigeria on Saturday to start its climb back into contention for the title. Norway also has matches against France and South Korea.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.