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Soccer tournament director responds to criticism

(WOWT)
Published: Jun. 6, 2017 at 9:39 PM CDT
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Local soccer tournament officials accused of discriminating against a young girl this past weekend are telling their side of the story to WOWT 6 News. Lanny Burgett, the director of the Springfield Invitational Soccer Tournament, said he still doesn't even know what Mili Hernandez looks like.

"We know a lot of girls that have short hair,” he told WOWT 6 News.

Mili’s short hair has become a

Her coach, Mo Farivari, says their team was eliminated on Sunday during the final day of the 3-day tournament because opposing team parents believed she was actually a boy.

Reporter: "What is your response to what they're [Mili’s team] saying?"

Burgett: "I don't know."

Reporter: "You don't know? What do you mean?"

Burgett: "I don't know I have not turned on a computer, I have not turned the TV on."

Burgett says three of the teams coached by Mo Farivari had both boys and girls swapping teams – playing on more than one by mixing ages and genders to best fit their roster.

"Three teams cheated playing on three different teams. That is the reason,” he said. "My rule is that you only play on one team in this tournament.”

Reporter: "So you would say this girl who's now national headlines because of this discrepancy between her gender has nothing to do with the removal of her team?"

Burgett: "Can I take a moment to talk to my lawyer really quick?"

After a couple minutes of talking to his lawyer, Burgett returned to the interview with his answer.

"It has nothing to do with that. It was the start of the swapping of players from team to team,” Burgett told WOWT 6 News.

But that's not what coaches were told Sunday by tournament officials. In cell phone video recorded by coaches they're told Mili's listed gender was the reason.

"The state roster says that's a boy," a tournament official can be heard saying in the cellphone video. "I'm not gonna sit here and figure this -- I'm going by what the state is saying."

The coach tells WOWT three girls were registered on more than one club team because that's how they play most tournaments.

They say Mili was also accidentally registered as male but that was all filed months before any games would be played.

Reporter: "Why didn't you all ask them why they had a boy playing on their girl's team for two months?"

Burgett: "Because it was overlooked on my part."

As for if any tournament rules broken, Mili's coach says they were never handed any rules.

State soccer officials announced Tuesday they are trying to figure out why roster ages and gender discrepancies weren't addressed well before most of the tournament games were played.

"Will I do a tournament again? I don't know. We'll have to see what the Nebraska State Soccer has to say when we talk,” Burgett said.

Nebraska State Soccer has announced that it will lead an investigation into the events that led up to the disqualification of a young girl's soccer team.