Girl’s short haircut had nothing to do with her team being disqualified from soccer tournament, director says – Los Angeles Times
A girls youth soccer team was disqualified from a tournament in Nebraska last weekend because of multiple rule infractions, not because of one player’s appearance, according to the tournament director.
Omaha’s Azzurri Cachorros girls 11-and-under club team was not allowed to play in their semifinal game of the Springfield Invitational on Sunday. One of the players, 8-year-old Mili Hernandez, and others made national headlines when they claimed they were disqualified because tournament officials saw Hernandez’s short hair and thought she was a boy.
But tournament director Lanyard Burgett told espnW that’s not the case.
“I want her to know it wasn’t about her,” the volunteer tournament director said of Hernandez. “I’ve got grandkids. I wouldn’t want somebody to do it to them when they play soccer.”
Burgett said multiple teams in the Azzurri organization, including Hernandez’s, had been accused of illegally sharing players during the tournament. He also said tournament organizers had received questions from parents of players from opposing teams about why the Azzurri girls 11-and-under team was allowed to use a boy.
In investigating both issues, Burgett noticed that the team’s official roster had Hernandez listed as a male. Azzurri director Mo Farivari told espnW that the mistake was made months ago when the organization’s registrar entered the players’ names into the Nebraska State Soccer Assn. system. No one had noticed until now.
The decision was made late Saturday to disqualify three Azzurri teams from the tournament. Burgett sent Farivari an email that night listing four reasons for the decision. Three of them had to do with the teams’ illegally sharing players; the other was having a boy playing for a girls team.
Burgett didn’t even know what Hernandez looked like at that point, he said, and that wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Gender issue aside, the team still had broken rules regarding the sharing of players, he said.
But Farivari isn’t buying it. He told espnW that his teams did share players during the tournament, but they’ve done such at the event in past years and have never been told the practice is against the rules.
“The only reason he disqualified them is because Mili looks like a boy and is listed [with] a typo on the roster,” Farivari told espnW. “I went over this to clarify, but he didn’t want to listen.”
Since the story broke, Hernandez has received a lot of support. Soccer stars like Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm are among the many who sent the girl encouraging messages on social media. On Thursday, players from her team cut off portions of their hair to show solidarity with their teammate.
Meanwhile, Burgett is getting a different kind of attention, including death threats and intimidating phone calls.
“I’ve had angry parents, angry coaches when I’ve refereed,” he said. “But I’ve never felt that I had to protect myself.”
He added: “My wife and daughter are worried right now. They’re just worried because we’ve never been in this situation.”