Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, Sporting Kansas City will celebrate the club’s players and associates of Hispanic descent, highlighting their unique heritage and culture.
Felipe Hernandez is a Sporting KC midfielder who was born in Ibague, Colombia, grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved to Kansas City in 2014 to play in Sporting’s highly touted Academy.
In 2016, he inked an Academy contract with the Swope Park Rangers and made his professional debut on March 25, 2017. After signing with the first team as the club’s 12th Homegrown Player on Aug. 30, 2019, Hernandez has gone on to start 33 of 65 appearances in all competitions, scoring five goals and adding seven assists. He was one of two Sporting players to feature in all 34 regular season matches this year.
Hernandez moved to the United States when he was two years old. Both of his parents and his brother were born in Ibague and the Hernandez family is proud of their Colombian heritage.
“We have always celebrated being Colombian,” Hernandez said. “We’re proud of our heritage like most Hispanic people are. It’s really something special to us. We celebrated our heritage every day through the authentic food my mother cooked and the Colombian music we always had playing.”
From a young age, Hernandez’s Colombian heritage was taught to him organically at home. While attending school in America, he would speak English but at home everything was in Spanish.
“I would speak English at school and then at home, at all times, I would speak Spanish,” Hernandez said. “We only watched Spanish TV together, but when my brother and I would go upstairs we would try to sneak in a little bit of American TV. My parents wanted us to learn Spanish and to be proud of our roots. Even though my brother and I only briefly lived there, it’s something they really instilled in us from a young age.”
Felipe Hernandez! Our first player to progress from:
An #AcademyAffiliate 👉 @SKCAcademy 👉 @SportingKCII 👉 First Team #PathwayToPros 👏 pic.twitter.com/9griW2MXLV
When visiting family in Colombia, Hernandez calls back on the lessons his parents taught him.
“In Colombian culture there are little things like saying, ‘Yes sir’ or ‘Yes ma’am’ and other formal ways of showing respect,” Hernandez said. “Manners are a big part of Colombian culture and that was something our parents preached. When I go and visit a lot of family that is still in Colombia, everyone comes and picks us up at the airport. You notice the cultural differences like no air conditioning in the cars and other things taken for granted here. You get an appreciation for what you have but also get to explore the differences. I had so many amazing experiences in Colombia with my family that I never would have in the United States.”
The closeness of Hernandez’s family still plays a major role in the celebration of his culture. His father’s love for the game of soccer inspired him to become a professional soccer player. On Father’s Day this year, Sporting KC took on Nashville SC at GEODIS Park in Nashville. Hernandez’s entire family attended the match on June 19 in support of him and his dad gave him a call before kickoff.
“My dad called me before the match because it was Father’s Day,” Hernandez recalled. “He told me the only thing he wants is a goal and a win because he’s not big on gifts.”
In the 41st minute of the contest, Hernandez blasted a free kick from long range past the keeper and into the back of the net to give Sporting a lead 1-0.
“I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it,” Hernandez said. “The ball skipped in and the first thing I could think of was my parents. I knew they were on the left side, so I ran over and waved to that side. Scoring for him was so cool because he always talked about how his one dream was for him to see one of his kids be a pro. He supported me the whole time and it made me feel so good.”
✅ His hometown
✅ His family in the stands
✅ 40-yards untouched
Felipe Hernandez had himself an afternoon, Sunday. pic.twitter.com/JPfexDwZkQ
While Hernandez honors his father with his play on the field, he and his mother have a shared love for Colombian cuisine. His mom owns and operates a food truck that specializes in authentic Colombian food such as arepas, sancocho and more.
“When my mom comes and visits, she cooks and cooks and cooks,” Hernandez said. “She leaves all the leftovers at my house. I love that because it’s the best food. She makes the greatest chicken and chorizo I have ever had.”
Despite only living in Colombia as a young child, Hernandez values and has so much pride for his heritage. He celebrates his culture with his play on the field, the food he cooks and the music he listens to. Because of his mother and father, Hernandez stays connected to his Hispanic heritage through his close-knit family.