8-year-old Mili Hernandez loves soccer and keeping her hair cut short.
You wouldn’t think those things would be at odds with one another, but bizarrely, they are.
Last weekend, Mili and her team advanced to the finals of a local tournament in Nebraska. Before they were able to take the field, however, the team was disqualified. The reason: organizers believed Mili was a boy because of her short hair. Seriously. Even worse, no amount of proof could convince organizers otherwise, and the tournament has since ended.
As Mili’s story began circulating, some of the biggest stars in women’s soccer stepped in with messages of support.
Abby Wambach, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) players in U.S. soccer history, posted messages of support on Twitter and Instagram calling Mili “inspiring” and a “natural-born leader.”
“You can do anything you want to do and you can be anything you want to be,” says Wambach in an Instagram video. “And guess what? You can look like whatever you need to look like to do it.”
Dear Mili Hernandez, you are amazing in every way. Thank you for teaching us how to be brave and shining a light on something so hurtful. If you don’t know, she is my new hero. Her team was disqualified from a tourney cause they thought she was a boy because of a clerical error that wasn’t handled properly. Let’s meet soon sister.
Two-time World Cup champion Mia Hamm invited Mili to come visit her at one of her Team First Soccer Academy camps.
From there, support began pouring in from professional soccer stars around the world.
“Guess I should’ve been disqualified too,” wrote Australia’s Lydia Williams, who shared a photo of herself with short hair.
“I’ll second that” wrote Orlando’s Maddy Evans.
England’s Rachel Daly added a photo of herself with short hair to Williams response.
As did former American player, Haley Carter, who added the hashtag: #BecauseShortHairStillDoesntCare.
“Keep going Mili,” added South African player Janine Van Wyk.
In response to the backlash, tournament organizers have claimed that their decision was actually the result of a misprint on the team’s roster and not the result of Mili’s haircut.
Regardless of the reason behind the decision, the end result is the same Mili and her team were banned from playing in the finals of a tournament that is now over. There is no fix here; there is no time to convince the tournament to still let her team play.
It’s really unfortunate situation this is kids soccer we’re talking about! especially since it resulted in so much sadness over something as small as a haircut or a typo.
On the bright side, it brought out some of the world’s greatest athletes in support of one very special 8-year-old girl and her very short hair. That’s a lesson Mili and hopefully the tournament organizers will never forget.