UPDATED 6/7/2017 at 2:30 ET
You’re a youth soccer director in somewhere, America, just trying to coordinate hundreds of kids and their probably overly-involved parents. You make a bad decision (a REALLY bad decision) about a player - and suddenly you have Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, and Julie Foudy mad at you.
That’s what it’s been like for the organizers of the Springfield Girls Soccer Invitational in Nebraska, who disqualified eight-year-old Mili Hernandez from playing and kicked her team out of a tournament because she “looks like a boy.” Hernandez has short hair and plays up an age group with a team of 11 year olds. Omaha's Azzuri-Cachorros Chicas had advanced to the final day of competition when they were unceremoniously given the boot. The Springfield Soccer Association claims she was disqualified because of a typo listing her as male instead of female, but even when the family showed the player’s insurance card with her gender listed as “female” to tournament organizers, they still refused to let her play.
Now some of the biggest names in the game have reached out to Hernandez to encourage her to continue playing while also condemning the actions of the soccer association.
“You don’t look like a boy, you look like a girl with short hair,” said Wambach. “You can do anything you want to do and you can be anything you want to be, and guess what, you can look like whatever you need to look like to do it.”
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.
Mia Hamm followed that up with an invitation to one of her camps.
Hey Mili, we would love to host you at one of our camps @TeamFirstSA . Be you!— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) June 5, 2017
And finally, Julie Foudy herself is now asking for the tournament organizers’ contact info to presumably have a very sternly-worded conversation with them.
If anyone has contact info for people who ran this Springfield Soccer Tournament in Nebraska, please send to me. Much appreciated. https://t.co/k8xphD5k3n— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) June 6, 2017
Getting a phone call from an irate Julie Foudy is probably the low point of any girls’ soccer administrator’s career. Hopefully in the future there won’t be any more snap calls from youth soccer officials about gender based on appearance and kids can get on with having fun playing soccer.
UPDATE: the tournament director claims that Hernandez’s team was disqualified because players were “swapping teams” or playing for more than one team in the tournament, which was against tournament rules. However, the coaches provided cell phone video that shows tournament officials telling them Hernandez’s incorrectly listed gender was the reason.