Wow, what a week for WoSo. Generally FIFA windows are more laid back, with the attention shifting away from NWSL clubs and onto the USWNT and other national teams. Non-national team players within the league get a little bit of down time, often giving them enough time for mini-vacations. Some players take trips with teammates, while others go home to visit friends, families, and loved ones. Usually, FIFA windows are a nice break from the insanity that can be the NWSL regular season, but…not this week. This week has been more drama-filled than an NWSL Championship that is decided in penalties.
As a slight break from the insanity, I offer to you my Friday Favorites. Or, favorite, as is the case this week.
WoSo stars stand behind Mili
As you’ve probably heard by now, Mili Hernandez is an 8-year-old girl in Nebraska whose team, the Azzurri Cachorros Chicas, was recently disqualified from the finals of a tournament because someone thought that Mili, who has short hair, was a boy.
It didn’t help that, for some reason, she was listed as male on the team roster, a simple error that was still considered a rules violation as boys were not allowed to play on a girl’s team. However, even when Mili’s father showed the tournament officials her insurance card that clearly stated she was female, they still refused to overturn the disqualification.
Before long, the story of Mili Hernandez being disqualified because her short hair made her look like a boy began to pick up steam, and in no time, national news outlets like the New York Times and ESPN began covering it. That brought it to the attention of many current and former stars of the women’s game who decided to speak out in support of Mili.
Former USWNT stars and World Cup champions Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, three legends of the game, took to social media to voice their support for Mili. Wambach tweeted, “i [sic] won championships with short hair,” implying that girls with short hair are just as capable as anyone else in regards to playing soccer, even on a girls team. All three pledged to do more than just post about Mili on social media: Foudy and Wambach said they were going to contact tournament organizers to discuss the situation, while Hamm offered to host Mili at one of her Team First Soccer camps.
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.
Megan Rapinoe also tweeted her support for Mili, asking if “man buns” should be banned from soccer. Rapinoe’s tweet flipped the gender script on its head to prove an implied point: banning “feminine” hairstyles or the men who wear them from men’s sports is just as ludicrous as an idea as banning a girl with a “masculine” haircut from a women’s sport. She followed her question with #beyourbestyou, the motto of her personal brand that seems especially poignant in light of Mili’s situation.
Other current NWSL players from around the world also took to social media, sharing pictures of themselves as young players with short hair, standing in solidarity with Mili in hopes this one incident would not discourage her. Houston Dash and Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams was the first to do so, with some of her teammates following suit. Before long, players from other teams were had also gotten involved.
— Lydia Williams (@lydsaussie) June 5, 2017
— Rachel Daly (@RachelDaly3) June 6, 2017
— Maddy Evans (@Mevans018) June 6, 2017
Other current and former professional soccer players who have short hair also took to social media to prove that, at any age, women can have short hair and still play soccer. Just days after posting a pic of her newly dyed short hairdo, Houston Dash and South Africa defender Janine Van Wyk posted a picture from her childhood, showing she’s been rocking the short ‘do for a while now. Joanna Lohman, who has been extremely vocal about her appearance and breaking down gender norms, tweeted to Mili that, to this day, she is still sometimes mistaken for a boy because of her signature style but that she doesn’t let that stop her. Former Canada and Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, a player who has rocked her mohawk on the field just as well as she does in a dress, posted a video reinforcing the idea that short hair is not masculine and encouraging Mili and other girls to “do you.”
— Karina LeBlanc (@karinaleblanc) June 7, 2017
This morning, Sam Mewis, all the way from Europe where she is with the USWNT, also posted a video to Mili. In it she says that she, along with her sponsor Puma, want to outfit Mili and her entire team with cleats so the team “can continue to shine.”
The support the WoSo community has shown Mili Hernandez is extremely encouraging and uplifting to me and, I have no doubt, to other women and girls around the world, short hair or long. A lot of girls have at least one short haircut during their lifetimes—even I was subjected to a short ‘do during my childhood, an ill-advised Dorothy Hamill-inspired cut back during my figure skating days—and even more girls are told they can’t do something because of their gender. To me, it’s a welcome sight to see so many people use their voices and influence to encourage girls and, really, women of all ages, to be themselves and to embrace the “Do You” philosophy.
Allison’s Friday Favorites features positive, encouraging or otherwise uplifting stories from around the world of WoSo every week. See something you think would be a good addition to Friday Favorites? Feel free to tweet it to me (@allibecc). All of the columns can be found here.