Mili Hernandez, 8, loves soccer and was looking forward to playing at the Springfield Soccer Club girls’ tournament in Nebraska over the weekend. But her short haircut got her team disqualified, her family claimed.
Hernandez helped lead her team, Omaha’s Azzuri Cachorros, to the finals on Saturday, WOWT reported. However, before even taking the field on Sunday, the team suddenly was disqualified.
Her family claimed she was disqualified because of her looks.
“They only did it because I look like a boy,” Hernandez told the station, adding that she likes the way she looks. “When my hair starts to grow, I put it short because I’ve always had short hair. I don’t like my hair long.”
“I was mad,” she told KMTV. “There was no point in everybody getting kicked out.”
The Springfield Soccer Association told the station that a misprint in the team’s roster identified the 8-year-old as a boy in “violation of state and tournament rules” and her short hair had nothing to do with it.
“Listing a male player on a girls team roster is a violation of state and tournament rules,” the Springfield Soccer Club said in a statement.
Hernandez’s coach said the mistake was a typo by a registrar and that he tried to correct the error at the tournament. He said organizers handled it inappropriately.
“We had already paid to play, we had already played three games – why was this not resolved before the semi-finals?” Mario Torres said. “Even if it was a mistake, they did not need to humiliate her or kick the entire team off the field.”
Her family claims they even took her insurance card – which shows her gender – to prove to organizers that she was indeed a girl.
“We had a doctor's physical form and it gave a description and it said her age and female, so we showed them that but they wouldn't look at it,” said Cruz Hernandez, Mili's brother.
In the end, the tournament organizers stood by their decision.
The Cachorros team filed a complaint with the Nebraska State Soccer Association.
The Nebraska State Soccer Association acknowledged that typos do happen on rosters from time to time and that they are working on fixing the software so mistakes don’t happen again.
“Nebraska State Soccer does not run the tournament, nor is it involved in any of the decisions the tournament makes with regards to rules, players or teams,” the association said in a statement. “Nebraska State Soccer would never disqualify a player from participating on a girls’ team based on appearance. While we are disappointed that a player was denied the opportunity to play, that decision was made by entities other than the Nebraska State Soccer Association.”
The news of Hernandez’s disqualification is getting a lot of buzz online and even got the attention of two of the sport’s biggest names: former U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team stars Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.
Wambach, who retired from the sport last year, thanks the 8-year-old on social media for “teaching us how to be brave” and that she wanted to meet her soon.
“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,” Wamback wrote. “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.”
Hamm invited Hernandez to one of her soccer camps.
Hernandez's father, Gerardo, said this incident is not going to stop his little girl from continuing to play the sport she loves.
"It's what she likes. It's what she always wants to do - play soccer," he said.