We tell our young girls that they can do anything and be anything: scientists, government officials, and athletes. Gone are the days when girls have to aspire to be teachers, nurses, or secretaries because they are “traditional” or “female-friendly” fields. We are raising our girls to be fearless and strong and to follow their dreams because the sky is the limit.
Mili Hernandez of Springfield, Nebraska has been following her dream and doing what she loved: playing soccer. The 8-year-old has some serious skills and plays on the 11-year-old roster.
“It’s what she likes,” her father Gerardo Hernandez told WOWT 6 News. “It’s what she always wants to do – play soccer.” And why not? She’s good at it and she loves it. Remember, girls can do anything … except have a short haircut, apparently.
Mili’s team was disqualified before taking the field on Sunday, which was the final day of the tournament because the organizers insisted Mili was a boy.
Because she has short hair. Because girls don’t have short hair, right?
It apparently mattered little that Mili’s parents and coach chimed in with something that made sense, like, “Nope, she’s a girl.”
Mili’s family showed her insurance card to the tournament organizers in an effort to prove she was a girl. Because it’s not like an 8-year-old is going to have a driver’s license with a little block that indicates gender, but apparently her family’s word wasn’t going to cut it. Not only did Mili get yanked from the tournament, her entire team was disqualified.
Her entire team.
Mili said, “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.” But, kick the whole club out they did.
There is, however, a silver lining.
Soccer star Abby Wambach got wind of the injustice and took to Twitter. Wambach is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, and all-around soccer badass. She also happens to rock a short haircut.
Wambach’s tweet got the attention of her former teammate, Mia Hamm who offered to host Mili at one of her Team First Soccer Academy Camps. Hamm’s tweet then got the attention of tennis legend Billie Jean King who had this message for Mila: “…continue to be yourself, dream big and go for it. Take Mia up on her offer.”
While garnering the attention of three fearless female athletes who are household names and the potential opportunity to learn at one of Mia Hamm’s soccer camps does not suck, it doesn’t excuse the way the Springfield Soccer Club handled this situation.
I hope this swift response from the media and the athletic community serves as the wake-up call they obviously need.
“She was crying after they told us … they made her cry.” says Mili’s father about her reaction to being disqualified for “being a boy.” Mili has remained positive. She says her team and her coach have been supportive and that this won’t stop her from playing. “There’s other tournaments that I can play,” says the 8-year-old.
Mili, we can wait to see what you do next. Because girls can do anything.
h/t: ABC News