Teammates of an 8-year-old girl who was disqualified from a girls’ soccer tournament have cut their hair in solidarity after organizers thought she was a boy.
Omaha World-Herald reported Friday that 8-year-old Mili Hernadez and her all-girls soccer team, the Azzurri Achurros, was disqualified from a weekend soccer tournament in Springfield, Nebraska, because organizers were told by some one that a boy was playing on the team June 3.
Bill Bianco, attorney for the Southern Sarpy Activities Program, which organized the tournament, told Omaha World-Herald that it’s not clear who alerted organizers.
Bianco said that organizers checked the roster and saw Mili was listed as a boy. According to Bianco, Southern Sarpy Activities Program did not actually think Mili was a boy, but the listing of a male player on a girls’ soccer team roster violated tournament rules, leading to the team being disqualified.
“Just because I look like a boy doesn't mean I am a boy,” Mili told WOWT June 4. “They don't have a reason to kick the whole club out.”
“She was crying after they told us,” Mili’s father, Gerardo Hernandez said. Hernandez said the family showed Mili’s insurance card to organizers to prove she was a girl, but it did not change their decision.
“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,” the Nebraska State Soccer Association said in a statement, according to ESPN. “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.”
After a practice game Thursday in Omaha, Nebraska, nine of Mili’s teammates had their hair cut by soccer moms to stand with their teammate.
“It was scary, but it made me feel good to support Mili,” said 10-year-old Erika Ortez said.
Elvia Diaz said she let her 11-year-old daughter Hailey Valdiva decide whether or not she wanted to cut her hair, and she decided to let go of 12 inches of her locks.
I’m proud of her,” Diaz told the World-Herald.
“They care,” Mili said of her teammates actions.
The news of the team’s disqualification, which the president of the soccer club Mili’s team plays for blamed on a typo, drew the attention of former soccer players Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, according to Time.
Wambach delivered an Instagram message to Mili, saying “You’re inspiring. You’re a natural-born leader, honey, and I’m so proud of you.
“Mili, don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you aren’t perfect just as you are,” Wambach said on Twitter June 5. “I won championships with short hair.”
Hamm invited Mili to her Team First Soccer Academy, where she coaches and is a co-founder.