By Dave Crawley

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It takes strong legs to play soccer, or so it would seem.

But JV goalie Emmanuel Hilton has no legs at all. One year ago, the junior at Blackhawk High School was in an orphanage in the African nation of Congo. He couldn’t even speak English.

On the practice field, coach Bryan Vitali offers encouragement.

The coach says his team has accepted the kid they call “E-man.”

“He inspires so many guys,” said Vitali. “He inspires me to come out and do my job better. The guys see him moving and they pick up their intensity. He’s completely exceeded our expectations.”

The fact Emmanuel is still alive also exceeds expectations.

“I was born with no legs, and my mom, she couldn’t take care of me and she throw me away,” he said. “She didn’t like me. So I was handicapped. And she threw me in the middle of the road, like when a car passes, somebody can hit me and I can die.”

He was rescued by a woman who took him to the orphanage. Years later, Michelle Hilton and her husband, a Methodist pastor in Chippewa, saw his smiling face in a photograph. They decided to adopt.

“I thought this kid just needs a chance, you know,” Michelle Hilton said. “What could happen if we just step out in faith and just give him a chance? And so we did, and it’s good. It’s not that hard.”

The goalie is allowed to kick with his arm. But that’s the only break he gets. Although he is loved by his teammates, nobody coddles him on the practice field. When it comes to scoring goals, they just let it rip.

The newly adopted American admits to a bit of fear when he came out for the team. But now, he says, “They like me, they’re happy, so I feel comfortable to be on the team.”

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