Girls soccer team kicked out of tournament because officials believed one player was a boy
The Azzuri-Cachorros Chicas girls soccer team in Omaha, Nebraska, was set to play in the tournament championship on Sunday, but the team was suddenly disqualified before taking the field after tournament officials believed one of the players was a boy, according to the girl’s family.
Eight-year-old Mili Hernandez told KMTV-TV the team was kicked out because organizers assumed from her short haircut that she was a boy.
“They only did it because I look like a boy,” she said. “When my hair starts to grow, I put it short because I’ve always had short hair. I don’t like my hair long.”
The team’s coach, Mario Torres, said a registrar’s error caused tournament organizers to become suspicious. Although Mili is in fact a female, she was listed as a male on the soccer team’s roster. Organizers told Torres the team was disqualified, and even after Mili’s family tried to show them proof of Mili’s gender, the family insists the organizers were unwilling to look at the evidence.
“We showed them all different types of IDs,” said Mili’s sister, Alina. “The president of the tournament said that they had made their decision and he wouldn’t change it. Even though we had an insurance card and documentation that showed she is a female.”
Mili’s brother Cruz said that the family even showed them a doctor’s physical form listing Mili as a female. The organizers wouldn’t review it.
The Springfield Soccer Association defended its decision in a statement, expressing that it had nothing to do with the 8-year-old’s haircut, but that the team was in violation of the rules.
“Listing a male player on a girls team roster is a violation of state and tournament rules,” the association maintained.
Still, Torres insists it was handled inappropriately, and with intentional malice.
“We had already paid to play, we had already played three games – why was this not resolved before the semifinals?” he asked. “Even if it was a mistake, they did not need to humiliate her or kick the entire team off the field.”
The Cachorros Chicas has filed a complaint with the Nebraska State Soccer Association, and Mili Hernandez has gained national attention from former female soccer stars like Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.
Hamm, a two-time FIFA World Cup champion, tweeted an invitation to Mili to attend one of her soccer camps.
“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,” Wambach wrote in the caption. “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.”
Mili’s father, Gerardo, insisted that Mili would not be discouraged from doing something she loves.
“It’s what she likes. It’s what she always wants to do — play soccer,” he said.