When Ian Rosas stepped back onto campus at Evans High School for the new school year, the senior had plenty to tell his friends about his summer vacation.
"Vacation" might not be the ideal word to describe his summer, however, because Rosas was working hard during most of it at a soccer camp in Barcelona.
That he attended the camp is not necessarily noteworthy; Rosas has traveled to Barcelona for three consecutive years for the camp. What is different this time around is the reaction he got from the staff there, as well as the timing of his trip.
Rosas reached Barcelona the day before Spain's World Cup final victory over the Netherlands, the nation's first.
"It was pretty crazy," he said. "Everybody went wild. We were in the residency and we were watching the game. There were about 60 people in there rooting for Spain, and four people rooting for Netherlands.
"Everybody went out in the city and there were fireworks."
The moment was a poignant one for the Knights' standout soccer player. His favorite team is FC Barcelona, which competes in Spain's elite La Liga. Many of the squad's players were members of the World Cup-winning side.
Rosas was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to the United States before the age of 1. He and his family moved to Columbia County when Rosas was "4 or 5 years old," he said.
Rosas dreams of one day playing for FC Barcelona. Attending the camp is a way for him to show off his skills and get his foot in the door with the coaches there.
This time around, having attended two previous years helped in that regard. Rosas said the coaches remembered him and it made the process of getting into the camp's top group easier.
The first year, Rosas was in the second group. Last year, he spent one of the two weeks in the same group before moving to the top group. This year, he spent the entire two weeks competing with the camp's best players.
"You have no idea," he said of the competition level. "It's kids from all around the world. Kids that play on a youth team for (Italian Serie A league team) AS Roma, (are) about to sign professionally."
Rosas' mother, Lourdes Sanchez-Rosas, said her son is too humble to reveal the coaches' comments about him from the camp.
"We received a report" from the coaches, she said. "Living here all his life, they said he needed to improve a few weak points. But they also say that they understand because he has never played in a league there.
"For him playing here, they said that he's very good."
Sanchez-Rosas said the camp releases a list of the players who performed the best.
"He ended up second on the list," she said. "They said he has excellent speed."
Rosas' father, Martin, believes his son gets the love of sports from him. At the age of 15, Martin Rosas became one of the youngest basketball players ever to sign a professional contract in Puerto Rico.
Martin Rosas said Ian Rosas' timing could end up working out well.
Much of the FC Barcelona roster consists of older players who might soon consider retirement. That means the club will be looking for players, and if it calls up players from its youth squad, that would open up spots on the youth team roster. Rosas said he would love the opportunity to start out with FC Barcelona's youth team after graduating from Evans.
Rosas' parents said they support him completely as he strives to achieve his goal, though they stress that he needs to have a backup plan in case things don't work out.
Sanchez-Rosas said that when he was younger her son was not interested in learning Spanish, even though they stressed to him the benefits of being bilingual.
Now, she said, he is putting the work in to learn the language because of his desire to play for FC Barcelona.
Evans head coach Brian Killips said he doesn't know if he's ever seen a player work as hard in training sessions as Ian Rosas, who started on the varsity team as a freshman. Rosas plays left wing and right wing for Evans, but plays left back and right back for the Augusta Arsenal travel team.
"He's not the type that has a lot of talent and just sits back and relies on it," Killips noted. "He works hard."
Barcelona is known for having the best youth camp in the world, Killips said. Because FC Barcelona is a famed organization and has a history of being one of Europe's top clubs, he said it will be tough for Ian Rosas to break in.
"There's never been an American who's played for Barcelona. It's a huge, huge rarity for that to happen," Killips said. "Not to say he couldn't do it, but the odds are against him."
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