From the most annoying of heartbreaks to an inspirational story of community, the tale of Mili Hernandez has been a roller coaster of emotions. You may remember Mili’s name, as she was the young girl who’s under-11 team was disqualified from the Springfield Soccer Club competition final because Mili “looked like a boy.” Well, last Thursday, nine of her Azurri Cachorros teammates decided to cut their hair like hers, in a show of solidarity that belies their young ages.
After their usual practice, some of the mothers of the players gave haircuts to any of the girls that wanted to support Mili. “It was scary, but it made me feel good to support Mili,” said 10-year-old Erika Ortez, who cut about 6 inches of her hair. “Mili is like family to me. She’s part of my team.” Another teammate, 11-year-old Hailey Valdiva, said her hair had never been cut before. Where it stretched far down her back at the beginning of practice, it was 12 inches short by the end of the day.
When asked about the flood of support from her peers, 8-year-old Mili kept it simple and just acknowledged “they care.” Sometimes, just knowing people care can go a long way for a young kid, and Mili’s plight elicited a lot of care from the sports world, including from pro athletes like Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.
After denying claims that Hernandez was the only reason the team was disqualified, tournament director Lanyard Burgett spoke out again about the controversy. “I want her to know it wasn’t about her,” he said. “I’ve got grandkids. I wouldn’t want somebody to do it to them when they play soccer.”
Burgett claims that Azzurri teams were guilty of illegally sharing players and that is the real reason for their disqualification. Azzurri director Mo Farivari isn’t buying that, however.. He told espnW that his teams did share players during the tournament, but they’ve done that in the past and had never been told that it was illegal.
“The only reason he disqualified them is because Mili looks like a boy and is listed (with) a typo on the roster,” Farivari told espnW. “I went over this to clarify, but he didn’t want to listen.”