Organizers at a Nebraska soccer tournament recently
disqualified Mili Hernandez and her team from participating in the tournament’s
final match. The reason was not Mili’s age. (Mili is 8 years old, and she plays—legally—on
Azzurri Cachorros’s 11-year-old girls’ club team.) Nor was it a problem with the
team’s forms or other official paperwork.
The problem was that tournament officials insisted
that Mili was a boy.
In addition to being a soccer player who’s good enough
to play up a few age groups, Mili has short hair. And she likes it that
“When my hair starts to grow, I put it short because I’ve
always had short hair,” Mili explained to WOWT 6 News. “I didn’t like my hair
Yet Mili’s insistence that she was a girl—a girl who,
like many others, has short hair—was not enough to sway the Springfield Soccer
Club tournament officials. Her parents even attempted to remedy the situation
by producing Mili’s insurance card. The clear “F” under “Sex” on that card did
not change the officials’ minds, either.
“Just because I look like a boy doesn’t mean I am a
boy,” added Mili in her interview with WOWT 6 News. “But they don’t have a reason
to kick the whole club out.”
This, however, is precisely what the tournament organizers
The Springfield Soccer Club tournament has not made
any public comment on the situation. They have also directed any further
questions to their attorney and the Nebraska State Soccer Association. Yet
without further information, their decision seems undeniably sexist. And the fact
that this sexism was directed at a child makes Mili’s disqualification
What, for instance, made tournament officials feel
compelled to claim that Mili is a boy? Was it her haircut? Her skill on the
soccer field? Her way or moving or talking? The clothes she wore in between
games? Her name?
None of these characteristics is inherently—or biologically—male.
To claim otherwise is to perpetuate myths about sex and gender that limit girls’
(and boys’) appearance and skills and mannerisms to the narrowest confines:
confines that, frankly, should have been disqualified from the public
imagination decades ago.
Though upset with the disqualification itself, Mili’s
father, Gerardo Hernandez, is still proud of his daughter. “It’s what she
likes. It’s what she’s always wanted, to play soccer.”
In a post on the CLUB Cachorros
soccer team’s Facebook page, the club described the event as an especially unpleasant form of soccer tournament elimination—one that demonstrates
“the racism we live [with] today.”
But Mili isn’t letting just one narrow-minded decision
get her down. She’s looking forward to playing soccer again—albeit in different
When asked directly if she thought the tournament organizers’
decision was fair, Mili simply said, “No.” After a follow-up question, she
added that the decision made her feel “not happy.”
Her responses were short and awesome, just like her