Although it’s 2017 and many female celebrities have rocked a short hairdo for years, one young girl could not wear her hair short without her whole team getting disqualified from a soccer tournament.
Milagros “Mili” Hernandez is an eight-year-old girl from Omaha, Nebraska. She plays soccer on a team with eleven-year-old girls because she is such an advanced player, according to The New York Times. The team, the Azzurri Cachorros, was able to make it all the way to the Ray Heimes Springfield Invitational.
Unfortunately for Mili and her team, the girls were not able to compete long in the tournament because they were disqualified after someone claimed that Mili was a boy. According to a statement released by the Nebraska State Soccer Association, “the competition rules for U.S. Youth Soccer do not allow boys to play on a girls’ team.”
Though the national soccer rules indeed do not allow boys to play on girls’ youth teams, the outrage was sparked because Mili and her team believed that they were disqualified due to her short hair, which may have led her to be wrongly mistaken for a boy.
According to The New York Times, many people reacted to this incident on social media. Some pointed out that it is easier for female athletes to wear their hair short. Even Mili told the Omaha World-Herald that having short hair while playing soccer is simpler: “The hair doesn’t get in your face.”
Even professional soccer athletes took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the incident and show support for Mili. Abby Wambach tweeted, “Mili, don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you aren’t perfect just as you are. [I] won championships with short hair.”
The support for Mili and her short hair did not stop with the Olympic Gold medalists and World Cup champions, though. The other girls on Mili’s soccer team showed how much they care for their younger teammate by battling gender norms and cutting inches off of their own hair.
In a statement to the Omaha World-Herald, 10-year-old Erika Ortez spoke about her decision to cut six inches of her hair, saying, “It was scary, but it made me feel good to support Mili.” Other teammates joined in, with some cutting off as much as 12 inches.
Since the incident, the Nebraska State Soccer Association has stated that Mili was not simply disqualified for appearing to be a boy, but rather because of a mistake on the team’s roster that claimed she was male. The association added that “Nebraska State Soccer would never disqualify a player from participating on a girl’s teams based on appearance. However, it is important to note that the roster submitted to the state by the club identified this player as male.”
In addition to the mistake on the roster, representatives of the tournament have also stated that Mili’s team was disqualified because it was swapping players with another team, which is
prohibited. This swapping issue, according to The Washington Post, is ultimately the reason the team was disqualified.
“In an email to The Post, tournament director Lanyard Burgett said while there were complaints that a boy was playing on an all-girls’ team, the three teams that played for the Azzurri soccer clubs were being investigated for swapping players between teams.”
No matter what, Mili seems happy to know that so many people support her, and states that it makes her feel like “they care.”
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