Julian Araujo took in the cool breeze at Lompoc High on Monday while wearing an all-black FC Barcelona Nike windbreaker – identifying the soccer team he’s aiming to play for in the next couple of years.
He’s already signed the necessary paperwork to shoot for his international soccer aspirations.
The Braves soccer star – who has earned All-Los Padres League accolades and recently played on the U.S. National Under-16 team – said he’s now pursuing a pro career through FC Barcelona by attending and signing with the franchise’s Barca Academy in Casa Grande, Ariz.
The residential academy, which was created via a partnership between FC Barcelona and Grande Sports World, will house Araujo as he’ll play for the Spanish soccer club’s developmental team.
Araujo signed the documentation during the weekend of Aug. 5, and has been on Cloud Nine while celebrating the moment with family, friends and his LHS coaches.
“I’m really happy. Not many kids in my city get this opportunity, so I will take advantage and make the most out of it,” Araujo said. “Hopefully in a year or two seasons, they can send me out to Spain.”
The move, though, is bittersweet for Araujo’s coaches and peers. His head coach Marco Vargas said Araujo is in the process of withdrawing from LHS to attend the academy, where his now former soccer star will take online courses provided by Arizona State University (ASU) and have one-on-one time with tutors. His teammates and friends in Lompoc are also sad to see Araujo leave for the academy on Saturday.
“It’s going to be hard for me to leave my family, but it is sacrifices. I can’t let this opportunity go,” Araujo said.
As a sophomore on varsity last season, Araujo guided the Braves to the playoffs with their 11-13 mark and 7-7 record in Los Padres League play. His play was so stellar, that Araujo began to surface on the radar of two prominent programs: The U.S. National soccer team and UC Santa Barbara, which awarded him a scholarship offer during the spring.
But between July 24 and 26, Araujo's life changed as he was invited to the Barca Academy tryouts featuring representatives of FC Barcelona.
“They had been inviting me to training camps. So one day I went out there for a tryout and they really liked what they saw. They offered me a full scholarship to live out there in their dorms,” Araujo said.
And he completed his tryout after spending his month of June overseas with the U.S. Under-16 national team.
Vargas, who is also a college soccer official along with coaching the Braves, said he’s never coached a player of Araujo's caliber.
“In the long run, I’m super proud of Julian and what he’s accomplished. But at the end of the day, I’m here to support him,” Vargas said. “If soccer is what he wants to do for his career, I’ll definitely be behind him all the way.”
Vargas mentioned to Araujo that FC Barcelona is one of his favorite teams in the Spanish Premier League. He knows that Araujo’s departure means some schematic changes this winter for the Braves’ boys soccer team.
“It does alter things a little bit. It’s a loss that we’ll have to take. But with the boys coming back, we’re up for the challenge and we will be ready to compete,” Vargas said.
The longtime Lompoc resident has seen his share of top athletes from Lompoc move on to the professional ranks. He’s now crossing his fingers that the town will see its first pro soccer player in two years.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Vargas said. “We’ve seen the Danny Duffy’s, the Ryan Church’s, the Napolean Kaufman’s who have made it. For him, especially in a soccer aspect, it’s huge. We’re hoping everything goes well and he accomplishes everything he sets out to do in the long run.”