LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska State Soccer Association is investigating how a youth soccer tournament disqualified a team after misidentifying an 8-year-old girl as a boy.
The association said in a statement Tuesday afternoon it would suspend sanctioning the Springfield Invitational until it had completed a detailed review and the tournament’s organizers took steps to ensure similar errors would not happen again. It earlier apologized to Mili Hernandez, who said her team was disqualified from a youth soccer tournament because she looks like a boy.
Omaha’s Azzuri Cachorros girls club soccer team had advanced to a Springfield tournament’s semifinals when it was suddenly disqualified over the weekend. Mili Hernandez told Omaha’s WOWT-TV that tournament organizers thought she was a boy because of her short hair.
“Just because I look like a boy doesn’t mean I am a boy,” Mili told the television station. “They don’t have a reason to kick the whole club out.”
The Nebraska State Soccer Association said in a statement late Monday that the Springfield soccer club’s decision to disqualify Mili’s team does not represent the association’s core values of teamwork and inclusion.
The Springfield club told WOWT that a misprint in the team’s roster identified Mili as a boy. Her family brought several forms of identification, including her insurance card and a doctor’s physical form, to prove she’s a girl, but the team was still disqualified.
Team coach Mario Torres told KMTV in Omaha that tournament officials did not handle a clerical mistake properly.
“Even if it was a mistake, they did not need to humiliate her or kick the entire team off the field,” Torres said.
The state association said it did not oversee the Springfield tournament, but that it will work directly with clubs and tournament officials to ensure nothing like this happens again.
Former U.S. soccer stars Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm offered support to Mili on social media. Wambach said she won championships with short hair. Hamm invited Mili to one of her soccer camps.
The Hernandez family, Mili’s team and the Springfield club’s attorney have not returned Associated Press messages.