Milagros “Mili” Hernandez, an 8-year old girl and soccer whiz from Omaha, was booted from a youth soccer tournament because her pixie haircut led officials to think she was a boy. In response, two of the biggest names in U.S. women’s soccer have come to her defense: Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.
After hearing Mili’s story, Hamm, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup Champion, invited her to attend Team First Soccer Academy. Hamm co-owns the academy and coaches there.
Abby Wambach, who is also a gold medalist and World Cup champion, tweeted some words of encouragement to Mili.
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“Mili, don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you aren’t perfect just as you are,” she tweeted. “I won championships with short hair.”
She then followed up with a personal video message for the young athlete on Instagram:
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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’re a natural-born leader, honey, and I’m so proud of you,” Wambach says in the video.
Though Mili is only 8, her soccer talents surpass those of others her age. To better accommodate her, she was placed on “Azzurri Achurros”—an all-girls team full of 11-year-olds, according to the Washington Post. The team won two of their three games Saturday, which guaranteed them a spot in the last day of the Springfield Soccer Club girls tournament on Sunday. But just hours before the final match, Mili’s father, Gerardo Hernandez, received a call that Mili and the rest of the Azzurri Achurros had been disqualified because someone had claimed there was a boy on the team—referring to Mili.
The claim was bolstered because there was a typo on a registration form that listed Mili as a boy, according to the Post. Hernandez attempted to dispute the claim, even attempting to show tournament officials Mili’s insurance card because it lists her gender. But his efforts were to no avail.
“I brought the card,” he told the Post. “They didn’t even want to take it.”
In an interview with local news station WOWT, Mili said that she didn’t think it was fair the officials disqualified the whole team because of her.
“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,” she told the station. But despite the disappointment, Mili is remaining optimistic:
“There’s other tournaments that I can play,” she told WOWT.