An 8-year-old girl and the rest of her soccer team were disqualified from a girls tournament in Nebraska because event organizers thought she was a boy.
Mili Hernandez thinks it’s because of her short haircut.
“They only did it because I look like a boy,” Mili told WOWT-TV News.
Casey Mann, executive director of Nebraska State Soccer, said in a statement that the player’s appearance had nothing to do with the decision.
“Nebraska State Soccer would never disqualify a player from participating on a girl’s teams based on appearance,” Mann stated. “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 U.S. Youth Soccer do not allow boys to play on a girls’ team.”
Hernandez plays for Omaha’s Azzuri Cachorros girls 11-and-under club team, which had advanced to the semifinals of the Springfield Invitational last weekend. Coach Mario Torres told KMTV-TV in Omaha that he received a call from tournament organizers the morning of the game informing him that the team couldn’t play because one of the players, Hernandez, was listed on the roster as a boy.
Torres immediately alerted Hernandez’s family, which brought several forms of identification to the organizers to prove the player is a girl.
“We showed them all different types of IDs,” her sister Alina Hernandez said. “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.”
Hernandez said of the tournament organizers: “They just weren’t listening. They said I looked like a boy.”
Typo on the roster or not, Hernandez’s father and coach were unhappy with the way the situation was handled.
“She was crying after they told us,” Gerardo Hernandez said of his daughter. “They made her cry.”
Torres said: “Even if it was a mistake, they did not need to humiliate her or kick the entire team off the field.”
Since the incident, Hernandez has received some support from some high-profile members of the soccer community.
Nebraska State Soccer issued an apology Monday night:
“While Nebraska State Soccer did not oversee the Springfield Tournament, we recognize that our core values were simply not present this past weekend at this tournament and we apologize to this young girl, her family and her soccer club for this unfortunate misunderstanding. We believe that this needs to be a learning moment for everyone involved with soccer in our state and are working directly with our clubs and tournament officials to ensure that this does not happen again.”