A little girl who was disqualified from her soccer club tournament because of confusion about her gender now has the support of Olympic soccer stars Mia Hamm and Abby Wombach, as well as an apology from the Nebraska State Soccer Association.
Mili Hernandez, an 8-year-old girl in Omaha, Neb., has short hair. “When my hair starts to grow, I put it short because I’ve always had short hair. I didn’t like my hair long,” she told Omaha local news station WOWT on Sunday. The hairdo is convenient because Mili is a soccer star who plays on the Azzuri Cachorros, a team for 11-year-old girls.
“It’s what she likes,” Mili’s father, Gerardo Hernandez, told WOWT. “It’s what she always wants to do — play soccer.”
But two hours before Mili hit the field during the Springfield Soccer Club girls tournament on June 4, the team received some bad news: Since organizers believed that Mili was a boy, she and her entire team were disqualified. When her dad, Gerardo, heard the news, he drove over to the grounds and showed officials his daughter’s medical insurance card, which includes her sex. However, Mili and her team were still denied entry into the tournament.
“They didn’t want to listen. They said the president made his decision and there wasn’t any changing that,” Cruz Hernandez, Mili’s brother, told WOWT.
Mili added, “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.”
In a follow-up story published by WOWT on Tuesday, tournament officials insisted the decision was not based on Mili’s appearance — rather there was a typo on the team roster, which mistakenly listed Mili as male.
Yahoo Beauty could not reach Mo Farivari, the president of the Azzurri Soccer Club for comment; however, he told the Washington Post that there were two issues — someone had complained of a male player on the Azzurri Cachorros and that Mili was listed as male on one form.
On Tuesday, according to the Washington Post, the Nebraska State Soccer Association said in a statement that the decision to disqualify Mili was not reflective of its core values and that it will investigate what occurred.
“This case is really discriminatory,” Lucia Gilbert, PhD, professor emerita of psychology at Santa Clara University, tells Yahoo Beauty. “It’s unacceptable for an adult to look at a child and tell him or her who they are.”
Gilbert added, “Society has strict beliefs on how boys and girls should dress and act, and some people are uncomfortable when kids push those boundaries.”
While Mili’s dad says she was crushed by the news, she has plenty of support from her family — and fellow athletes such as Mia Hamm, who offered the girl an invitation to play at the Team First Soccer Academy Camp she founded.
Hey Mili, we would love to host you at one of our camps @TeamFirstSA . Be you!
— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) June 5, 2017
Tennis legend Billie Jean King also commented on Hamm’s tweet, writing:
@WomensSportsFdn Mili, continue to be yourself, dream big and go for it. Take Mia up on her offer.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 6, 2017
And Abby Wambach, retired soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist, gave Mili a shout-out on Instagram.
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.
A post shared by Mary Wambach (@abbywambach) on Jun 5, 2017 at 8:59pm PDT
While Mili was initially disappointed, she’s found closure from the experience, telling WOWT, “There’s other tournaments that I can play.”
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