An 8-year-old Nebraska girl and her teammates found themselves axed from the semifinals of a local soccer tournament this weekend because officials said she’d been registered as a boy.
Milagros “Mili” Hernandez and her all-girls team, the Azzuri Cachorros, won two of their three Saturday games at the Springfield Soccer Club tournament in Omaha, which should have landed them a spot in one of Sunday’s final games, WOWT 6 News reported. Just hours before the match, however, the team’s coach said a tournament organizer informed him that the Azzuri Cachorros were disqualified because Mili was listed as a boy on one of two registration forms.
Azzurri Soccer Club President Mo Farivari felt the mistake could be quickly rectified because a separate form listed Mili ― who wears her hair in a short, pixie style ― as a girl, The Washington Post reported. So coach Mario Torres immediately called Mili’s father, George Hernandez, and told him to bring his daughter to the soccer field with identification, according to CBS affiliate KMTV. Though Hernandez arrived at the tournament with his daughter’s insurance card, he said officials insisted Mili was a boy and “didn’t even want to take it.”
“They told us the thing was decided,” Hernandez told The Washington Post. “She’s been playing so long in different tournaments. That wasn’t the right way to treat people.”
Added Mili, “They only did it because I look like a boy. When my hair starts to grow, I put it short because I’ve always had short hair. I don’t like my hair long.”
The statement noted that the association “would never disqualify a player from participating on a girl’s teams based on appearance.”
“It is important to note that the roster submitted to the state by the club identified this player as male, and the competition rules for U.S. Youth Soccer do not allow boys to play on a girls’ team,” it read.
In an email statement sent to HuffPost, the Eastern Nebraska Soccer Association and the Springfield Soccer Association said Mili’s team “agreed to abide by tournament rules and signed the acknowledgement at team check-in that if illegal players are caught, such results in forfeit of game and possible removal from the tournament.”
Calling Mili’s listing on the roster “an unfortunate incident,” the associations added, “It is the club’s responsibility to correct mistakes, which the club did not do with respect to these violations.”
Still, Torres believes the issue should have been addressed before the semi-finals on Sunday. “Even if it was a mistake, they did not need to humiliate her or kick the entire team off the field,” he told KMTV.
“You’re inspiring. You’re a natural born leader, honey,” Wambach said in the clip, which can be viewed below. “I’m so proud of you.”
“While Nebraska State Soccer did not oversee the Springfield Tournament, we recognize that our core values were simply not present this past weekend at this tournament and we apologize to this young girl, her family and her soccer club for this unfortunate misunderstanding,” the statement read. “We believe that this needs to be a learning moment for everyone involved with soccer in our state and are working directly with our clubs and tournament officials to ensure that this does not happen again.”
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