Mili Hernandez won’t let others’ poor judgement keep her off the soccer field.
Hernandez, an 8-year-old Nebraska girl, and her teammates were disqualified from a soccer tournament Sunday because she “looks like a boy,” her father, Gerardo Hernandez, told Omaha, Neb., television station WOWT.
Hours before Hernandez and the Azzuri Cachorros girls club team were due to compete in the Springfield, Neb., Soccer Club girls tournament, someone complained about a boy on their all-girls U-11 team. A registrar’s error, which listed Hernandez as a boy, convinced organizers her team had broken the rules, even though her father showed them her health insurance card as proof of her gender.
Hernandez now has paid a heavy price for keeping her hair short.
“When my hair starts to grow I put it short because I’ve always had short hair,” she said. “I didn’t like my hair long.
“Just because I look like a boy doesn’t mean I am a boy. They don’t have a reason to kick the whole club out.”
Several prominent women’s soccer players are voicing their support for Hernandez on social media, including Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm, the top two goal-scorers in U.S. women’s national team history.
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.
Current USWNT star Megan Rapino pointed out a curious double-standard.
The Nebraska State Soccer Association oversees the sport in the state but is ducking blame for Hernandez’s mistreatment because it didn’t organize this tournament.
“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 …” its statement reads. “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.”
Azzuri Cachorros can appeal the decision to the Nebraska State Soccer Association. Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann suggests Hernandez and her family can exact further justice.
Thumbnail photo via Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports Images