Tournament organizers banned Mili Hernandez’s team despite her family’s repeated pleas.
The organizers of a Nebraska soccer tournament disqualified an Omaha team this weekend after insisting one of the girls on the squad was actually a boy, her family said.
Mili Hernandez, 8, is talented enough to play for the Azzuri Cachorros’s 11-year-old squad and had helped lead the club to the finals at the Springfield Soccer Club tournament on Sunday. Shortly before kickoff, though, Mili was told that she and her team had been disqualified because she looks like a boy.
“Just because I look like a boy doesn't mean I am a boy,” Mili told local television station WOWT 6. “They don't have a reason to kick the whole club out.”
The shocking decision left Mili in tears, her father, Gerardo, said.
The family pleaded with organizers to reverse their decision, showing them Mili’s health insurance card, which identified her as female. Tournament officials were unconvinced, though.
Organizers later said Mili had erroneously been marked as a boy on the team roster and that her short hair was not not a factor in the decision. The state soccer association issued an apology.
After hearing Mili’s story, American women's soccer greats Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy and Megan Rapinoe expressed their support and reached out to meet and help her.
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.
The good news is Mili won’t let the insult keep her from playing the sport she loves, telling WOWT “There’s other tournaments that I can play.”