Girl Thrown Out of Soccer Tournament for ‘Looking Like a Boy’

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Competitive sports can be a valuable outlet for young kids, helping them develop physical and emotional skills. As a child, few things are more exciting than being a part of your team’s success. For a little girl in Omaha, Nebraska, that excitement was squashed after her team was disqualified from competing in a tournament because she had short hair and “looked like a boy”. Mili Hernandez, 8, is good enough to play on a team of 11 year olds, but last weekend, her skills were ignored and her team punished after tournament officials insisted Mili was a boy. Mili helped lead her team to the final day of play in the Springfield Soccer Club girls tournament, but as the team took the field, they were told that they would no longer be allowed to compete.

Mili and her family tried in vain to appeal to officials, even going so far as to show them her insurance card in an effort to prove she was, in fact, a girl. But the tournament stood by the decision, and her team was not allowed to retake the field. WOWT 6 News  reported that officials were unwilling to listen to Mili or her family. Says Cruz Hernandez, Mili’s brother, “They didn’t want to listen. They said the president made his decision and there wasn’t any changing that.” Mili, while understandably upset, hasn’t let this decision affect her love of the game. She says it won’t stop her from playing the game she loves, but recognizes how unfair the whole situation was: “When my hair starts to grow I put it short because I’ve always had short hair,” she explained to WOWT. “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.”

On Monday, The Springfield Soccer Organization released a statement, blaming a typo on the roster for the disqualification:

                ” The Nebraska State Soccer Association was made aware of issues that occurred during the Ray Heimes Springfield Invitational in Springfield, Nebraska this past weekend. 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. Those decisions are made by the tournament director and tournament committee for each event. Additionally, Nebraska State Soccer would never disqualify a player from participating on a girl’s teams based on appearance. However, it is important to note that the roster submitted to the state by the club identified this player as male, and the competition rules for US Youth Soccer do not allow boys to play on a girls’ team.”

The statement in it’s entirety can be read here.

For Mili, the entire debacle at least has an upside. After hearing about the disqualification, soccer stars Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach both sent out messages of support. Hamm has extended an invitation for Mili to attend Team First Soccer Academy Camp, and Wambach tweeted out her support in the form of a video message directed to Mili.

It’s a tough experience to endure at such a young age, but we have a feeling Mili will come out of this shining more brightly than ever, with aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player, she knows the importance of perseverance and following your own path. Even at 8 years old, this kid has a good head on her shoulders, with a wicked cute pixie cut to boot.

(Image: Screenshot / WOWT 6 News)