VHSL Denies Italian Transfer Student's Appeals To Join W.T. Woodson Soccer Team | News
FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) -- Emanuele Meloni is not being allowed to join W.T. Woodson's soccer team this season.
"It's really frustrating ... I think I deserve to play," said Meloni.
Born and raised in Italy, the junior and his father Franco, decided it would benefit Emanuele's overall education to study in the United States.
Since Meloni enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools, his English has improved dramatically and he's made dozens of friends, many of whom play on the Cavaliers' varsity soccer team. Meloni wanted to join his classmates on the squad, but when he went out for the team, he learned he is not eligible according to Virginia High School League (VHSL) rules.
Technically, Meloni is not an exchange student. His school in Cagliari, Italy does not have an accredited foreign exchange program, so the Meloni family pays tuition for Emanuele's education in Fairfax County.
In the VHSL bylaws, rule 28-6-1 prohibits transfer students from participating in athletics without a corresponding change in the residence of his/her parents or guardian.
Two separate appeals have been brought to the VHSL. After the first one was denied, a panel of three Fairfax County principals, two of whom are from West Potomac and Lee, Woodson's bitter rivals, heard Meloni's argument and advised that he should be allowed to play. Their decision is not binding and the VHSL ultimately denied Meloni's second appeal.
"The principals were very positive about my situation. They understand that I didn't just come to America to play soccer but to enjoy the American education and experience," said Emanuele Meloni.
The family, who has sought legal counsel, is hoping a third and final appeal can lift their son's dampened spirits. Per the VHSL rules, Meloni is allowed to practice with Woodson until a final decision is made.
The 6-foot-5 defender, also known as "Big Em," has been scrimmaging with the soccer team every day.
"We understand the rules and have followed the VHSL's process. We just want this young man to enjoy the full academic experience, which also involves sports," said Cavaliers head soccer coach John McAuley.
A final verdict is expected soon.
Reporting by Dave Owens, 9 Sports
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