Mili Hernandez, an 8-year-old soccer player from Omaha, Nebraska, likes to keep her hair short so it doesn't distract her while she's busy killing it on the field. But recently, her haircut of choice caused quite the controversy after her club team was disqualified from a tournament because organizers thought she was a boy—and wouldn't let her family prove otherwise, reports CBS.
After the team advanced to the final day of the tournament, they were shocked to find they couldn't play because someone complained that there was a boy on the team, a mistake that was amplified by a typo on a registration form which listed Mili as a boy, explained Mo Farivari, the president of the Azzurri Soccer Club.
Still, they wouldn't allow Mili's family to correct the error. "We showed them all different types of IDs," her sister Alina Hernandez told CBS. "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 herself, who was brought to tears over the incident, felt that the tournament organizers "just weren't listening," she told CBS. "They said I looked like a boy." Clearly a traumatizing experience for anyone—let alone an 8-year-old.
Luckily, the national media attention the unfortunate incident received had a silver lining for Mili. After hearing the story, soccer legends Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach stepped forward and showed her their support on Twitter. (Related: The U.S. Women's Soccer Team Shares What They Love About Their Bodies)
Hey Mili, we would love to host you at one of our camps @TeamFirstSA . Be you!
— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) June 5, 2017
Mili, don't EVER let anyone tell you that you aren't perfect just as you are.i won championships with short hair https://t.co/WlfL3EIPic
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) June 5, 2017
Although the executive director of Nebraska State Soccer initially attempted to sidestep blame, arguing in a statement that they would "never disqualify a player from participating on a girl's teams based on appearance," they've since released another statement on Twitter, apologizing for what happened and promising to take action.
"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," it read. "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."