BOULDER — When last we left Djibril Doumbia, he was celebrating with his Boulder teammates after an epic 14-round penalty shoot-out in the Class 5A state title game Dick's Sporting Good Park against Broomfield.
Fast forward eight months to June and Doumbia, who has kept his soccer fresh all year long at the Rapids Academy in Denver, learned of opportunity to fulfill an even bigger goal at the brand new FC Barcelona Academy in Arizona.
He got the call and has now taken the plunge with the Spanish-based club in Casa Grande with the hopes of not only bettering his soccer skills, but also his education and all-around approach to life.
"The first few days have been amazing. It's a little weird adjusting to the new school, but the training has been amazing and staff as well. I'm just loving it here," said Doumbia in a early morning call on Wednesday from Arizona.
There are those that are questioning the move, but in his heart of hearts — as well as his mother Katrina's — it was a necessary move. The rigorous grind of the fall season that not only included his obligations to Boulder, but also making the trip to Commerce City and train with the Rapids Academy was taking a toll on him, especially in the classroom.
The organized structure provided by FC Barcelona — that starts at 6 a.m. every day with position specific training — is just what the doctor ordered.
"I'm just trying to better myself as a player and kind of get that new experience because I feel like it will build my confidence," said Doumbia, a junior. "But the biggest part for me is the schooling. It is really focused around that and I will be going to school with all the boys and that is an extra motivation piece."
But fulfilling the dream is not cheap. In fact there is a $70,000 price tag attached to the tuition at the academy, and even after FC Barcelona awarded him with a scholarship to cover some of the costs, it still left a healthy chunk of change for Katrina Doumbia to come up with.
Both her and Djibril have started a Go Fund Me page ( https://www.gofundme.com/djibrils-barca-academy-dream) to help them pursue his passion.
"I can't think of a better situation to support Djibril as a whole. As a soccer player, as a student and just as a human being — they put a lot of focus on human development," said Katrina Doumbia of the FC Barcelona Academy. "He has struggled in the past with all of this and there it is all rolled into one in a way that is going to provide him absolutely the best training, exposure and anything he could want on the soccer front."
The end goal is obvious. A college scholarship and ultimately a chance to play the game professionally either in the United States or abroad.
"Exposure-wise, he got a ton of it at Boulder, but if he was thriving as a human being in this setting ... it wouldn't be worth it," Katrina Doumbia said. "But the opportunity to be embraced by somebody with the know-how and the reputation of a Barcelona as well as have all the life pieces fall into place and have a happier human being is worth any price."
So where does this leave Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher and the defending champion Panthers?
While it is a loss, Kalisher — who had nothing but praise for Doumbia, who was recently named a preseason All American by USA Today — still has three senior goalkeepers who will compete for playing time and fill in quite nicely on what should be a solid backline for the defending champs.
"These guys have worked hard day in and day out for the last three years and are competing for that spot," Kalisher said. "They are all highly capable, very quality goalkeepers and I expect us to have one of the top defenses in the state.
"I hope it all works out for (Djibril)."