Soccer legends including Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach are throwing their support behind an 8-year-old girl who says her team was disqualified from a soccer tournament because organizers thought she was a boy.
Mili Hernandez, from Omaha, Nebraska, was preparing to play in the finals on Sunday with her all-girls team when Mili's coach got a phone call from the tournament’s organizers.
"The coach got a call at like 7:30 or 8:00 Sunday morning telling him [the team] was out because we broke the rules," Mili's father, Gerardo Hernandez, told ABC News. "He said, ‘What rules?’ and they said, ‘Because you’ve got a boy on the girls’ team.’"
Mili, who said she cut her hair shorter as she got older, described her reaction to the news that her team was disqualified.
"It made me feel kind of sad that they think that I’m a boy," she told ABC News.
Hernandez, who said his daughter "cried for hours," also contested the decision with tournament officials. He said the officials stood by their decision and told him, "We already decided and there's nothing we can do."
Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup champion, who is known for her trademark short hair, sent a video message to Mili, whom she called her "new hero."
Wambach previously took to Twitter to say she planned to call the organizers of the soccer tournament. The Springfield Soccer Club that disqualified Mili and her teammates did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Actually can someone find me the numbers of this club? I am calling their president. Unreal. https://t.co/2klR3IeLWR— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) June 5, 2017
Hamm, who competed with the U.S. women's national soccer team for nearly 20 years, offered to host Mili at her Team First Soccer Academy.
Hey Mili, we would love to host you at one of our camps @TeamFirstSA . Be you!— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) June 5, 2017
Mili's story also caught the attention of legendary athletes outside the sport of soccer, such as tennis star Billie Jean King.
@WomensSportsFdn Mili, continue to be yourself, dream big and go for it. Take Mia up on her offer.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 6, 2017
Mili said her team and her coach have been supportive and she plans to return to the soccer field. She also offered a lesson for others to learn from her experience.
"If a girl looks like a boy it doesn’t mean it’s a boy, but if a boy looks like a girl it doesn’t mean it’s a girl," Mili said. "Nobody can judge you if you’re a boy or girl."