In Springfield, Nebraska, an entire girls’ soccer team was disqualified from a local tournament because one of the players on the team, 8-year-old Mili Hernandez, reportedly looked too much like a boy to play. Hernandez plays on the 11 and under roster, a testament to her skill given that she is several years younger than the majority of players on the team. Hernandez was a participant in the Azzuri Cachorros’ run to the finals of the Springfield Soccer Club tournament, but her team was barred before it could take the field because the tournament organizers somehow determined that Hernandez was a boy.
Witnesses say that the organizers focused on Hernandez’ pixie cut. According to Hernandez, “I put it short because I’ve always had short hair. I didn’t like my hair long.” Hernandez’s father said that when she was informed she was the reason for the team’s qualification, “She was crying after they told us… They made her cry.” Hernandez said after the fact, “Just because I look like a boy doesn’t mean I am a boy. They don’t have a reason to kick the whole club out.” Hernandez’s parents even took out her insurance card to prove her gender, but the organizers refused to rescind their decision.
After the massive backlash, the Springfield Soccer Association came out and said that the real reason her team was disqualified was because of a clerical error that listed Hernandez as a male on the roster submitted to the association. “Listing a male player on a girls team roster is a violation of state and tournament rules.” Even so, the statement declined to acknowledge Hernandez’s family’s efforts to prove the error at the game with the proper paperwork. Nebraska State Soccer Association also released a statement on the Springfield Soccer Association’s handling of the situation: “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.”