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Wales manager Jayne Ludlow believes the speed at which the football community condemned the twerk comment aimed at Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg is proof that the women’s game is on the rise.
Lyon striker Hegerberg was announced as the first ever winner of the women’s award on Monday night, but the ceremony was overshadowed when French DJ and co-host Martin Solveig asked the 23-year-old if she could twerk.
The three-time women’s Champions League winner abruptly said “No” before walking away, although Hegerberg later said she “didn’t really consider it as sexual harassment or anything in the moment.”
Solveig said Hegerberg understood his twerk comment was “a joke” but apologised to those who had been offended by his remark.
British tennis star Andy Murray, however, strongly criticised Solveig, claiming the incident shows sexism still exists in sport, while three-time Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton was another who condemned his actions.
France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe was at the Paris ceremony and his disgusted reaction to Solveig’s comment was caught on camera.
“They’ll probably look back at that incident and wish it had not happened,” said Ludlow, a nine-time league winner and Arsenal Ladies’ record scorer.
“But many people involved in women’s sport think it’s a good thing because of the response that happened immediately.
“Top level guys at the top of their game — sportsmen, footballers — recognised that it was not acceptable and that support will grow our game more than anything else.
“To see his [Mbappe] reaction was great, better than any promotional campaign football can have.
“You’ve got a top-level guy saying: ‘Hey, that’s out of order. You need to respect this woman because she’s a superstar.’
“The award should have happened earlier, but I don’t look it as a bad thing because the response has been fantastic.
“At the end of the day, the world’s changing. Females can play sport at a very good level.
“The challenge for us that work in that environment is to grow it as quickly as we possibly can because there’s so much potential for growth.
“And the fact that sportsmen at the top of their game recognise that and want to help us do it, it’s fantastic.”
Ludlow has overseen huge growth and interest in women’s football in Wales since being appointed national team manager in 2014.
Wales narrowly lost out to England on qualification for next year’s World Cup in France, but the campaign caught the imagination of the public and matches were played in front of sell-out crowds.
Ludlow’s achievement was recognised when she was named coach of the year at the 2018 Sport Wales awards on Tuesday.
“We’re always going to have hurdles we have to jump or barriers we have to push down,” Ludlow said.
“That’s going to continue and there’s still a long way to go growing the women’s game.
“It’s why I want to be involved in it because the potential for growth is massive, far more than within the men’s game.
“Look at the national women’s team being recognised in Wales now. If you had told me that 10 years ago when I was still playing I’d have just laughed.”
Wales announced four friendlies as they prepare for the Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.
January will see Ludlow take her side to Italy before travelling to play the Republic of Ireland in Malaga in substitution of playing in the Cyprus Cup.
In April, they have double a double-header against the Czech Republic though kick-off times and venues are yet to be confirmed.
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