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Teen Soccer Player Banned Because Of Crutches

October 3, 1996

NEW PARIS, Pa. (AP) _ A teen-ager from France who needs crutches to walk has been forbidden from playing with his high-school soccer team.

Exchange student Greg Giraud, 17, of Marseille played one game for Chestnut Ridge High School this fall before he was ruled ineligible by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

He is still practicing with the team. Giraud injured his legs when he fell five stories from a building 14 years ago.

``I play defense. I kick the balls as far as I can. Maybe I am a bit slower,″ he said.

He started going to practice with his host, Matt Ertle, to keep score and make friends. He earned a spot on the junior varsity team by planting his crutches and kicking the ball. He even played goalie in one scrimmage.

``One time he dropped his crutches to catch the ball,″ coach Stewart McClelland said. ``I think he’s brought a lot of inspiration to his teammates. They see him hustle. Kids really respect him for that.″

Varsity player Justin Berkey said it is tough to dribble the ball around Giraud. ``He can shoot. He can boot them in,″ Berkey said.

Williams Korns, president of the Somerset County chapter of the PIAA soccer officials, told officials at the Bedford County school that Giraud’s crutches were ``illegal equipment″ that could hurt other players.

``I was very upset at the beginning, very disappointed. But it’s just a game,″ Giraud said.

Host father Tom Ertle is exploring court challenges to the ruling. Backing him up is school board member Bob Sweet, who had polio as a child and walks with a cane. Sweet donated fiberglass crutches to Giraud because his aluminum crutches buckled on the soccer field.

No opponents of Chestnut Ridge have voiced objections.

``Every one of them has been great with us. They said if he wants to play, let him play,″ assistant coach Angela Lantz said.

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