Female sports legends including Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm and Billie Jean King are among those reaching out to support an 8-year-old Nebraska girl whose team was booted from a soccer tournament after officials mistook her for a boy.
Milagros “Mili” Hernandez earned widespread attention after her team — the Azzuri Cachorros Chicas club team in Omaha — was suddenly disqualified from the Springfield Soccer Club girls tournament after organizers insisted Mili was a boy, KMTV reports.
“They just weren’t listening,” Mili told the station. “They said I looked like a boy … When they look at me they think I’m a boy, but I’m really not.”
Her coach, Mario Torres, told the news station he received a call from a tournament organizer who told him Mili was listed as a boy on the roster and so the entire team would be barred from playing in the semi-finals. Torres said he believes there was a typo on her gender in the roster, and the league did not back down after documentation proved she is indeed a girl.
“We showed them all different types of IDs,” her sister, Alina Hernandez, told KMTV. “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 father, Gerardo Hernandez, told WOWT that the little girl — who plays on the team with 11-year-olds — led the team through to the finals at the tournament, but was told before the big game that the team couldn’t play.
“She was crying after they told us,” Hernandez said. “They made her cry.”
Now, Hernandez is receiving well-wishes from another short-haired soccer player.
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.
“You don’t look like a boy. You look like a girl with short hair, and that’s okay,” Wambach, 37, says in an Instagram video.
“I know somebody else who has short hair. She’s won gold medals, and a World Cup and U.S. Soccer Player of the Year, and FIFA player of the year. You can do anything you wanna do and you can be anything you wanna be. And guess what, you can look like whatever you need to look like to do it.”
Wambach even gave a shout-out to the little girl on Twitter, writing, “Mili, don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you aren’t perfect just as you are. i won championships with short hair.”
Fellow soccer star Mia Hamm also supported Mia on Twitter, inviting her to attend one of her soccer camps and to “be you.”
Tennis legend Billie Jean King then replied to Hamm’s tweet and encouraged Mili to “take Mia up on her offer.”
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Mili, meanwhile, isn’t letting the setback stop her.
“There’s other tournaments that I can play,” she said, per WOWT, according to her father.