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Araujo’s European adventure

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Jeffrey T Barnes: Sports Union

As you step on the pitch in the morning, you can see the fog starting to lift as the dew remains on the grass. The players one by one starting to emerge from the tunnel as they get ready for their first practice of the day.

There is something about that early morning practice in the fall. The crisp of autumn is in the air. The players are laughing as they do their stretches - getting ready for the what the day might bring them.

You could almost say that former Niagara University, and FC Buffalo, soccer player Kelsey Araujo has lived a charmed life. Her soccer career started off in Canada, where she is from, and has progressed to the United States, France and Portugal.

Araujo has been able to play a sport that she has loved since first lacing up the cleats and heading out on that dew filled pitch as a youngster. Now, she is playing in Europe - playing in one of the best leagues in the world.

“My time in Europe has been filled with so many different emotions. I have been able to experience and do things I could have only dreamed of as a child. I get to play the game I love for a living. I get to challenge myself week in and week out. I’m living in a culture that not many will ever experience and I’m so grateful,” stated Araujo. “With all that said it’s not easy being away from home. It’s a sacrifice to live your dreams on the other side of the world from everyone you’ve ever known. I’m blessed and honored I get the chance to do this but I don’t think I’ll ever be fully adjusted to it.”

Araujo has been playing aboard now for a couple of years, but it still doesn’t get easy. Her life is back her where her roots are. Her family, and friends, are back in North America. That’s where she first made all of her memories playing that game she loves.

But. some times, to realize your dreams, you need to make a few sacrifices. Araujo won’t sugar coat it for anyone. It’s still difficult at times. She misses home, and what that comfort level brings to her, every day.

On those days she is missing everyone just a little more than normal, Araujo has to remind herself why she is where she is, doing what she is doing.

“It was so difficult, and is still difficult. I miss home every single day that I’m here. What I have to remind myself every day is that I’m here for a reason. I earned my right to be here and not everyone has the same opportunities as me,” stated Araujo. “I get to do something that people dream of doing. That I even dreamed of doing as a kid, and I have to enjoy every moment. My family also helps keep me sane. They have to remind me on the hardest of days how proud they are of me and everything I have accomplished. I do this for them. Everything they sacrificed for me to be here. I hope I make them proud every time I step on the field.”

Araujo is making everyone proud every time she steps on that pitch. People who have followed her career from Niagara, and FC Buffalo, are proud the way she has been able to adapt to the different style of play that Europe brings.

Even after a couple of years competing with some of the best players in the world, and holding her own, Araujo still has to pinch herself from time to time. This experience has allowed Araujo to grow as a person. It’s not easy for a 20-something year old to just pack up and leave after her summer season with FC Buffalo, and move to another country.

This experience has allowed her to get out of her comfort zone, and realize what an expectational person that she is.

“It is honestly so insane how different life is on this side of the ocean. It has been one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences of my life. I’ve been here for over a year and I’m still taken back almost every day,” stated Araujo. “I’m fortunate I get to do this. It has really opened my eyes and made me appreciate what I had growing up in North America. I think getting out of my comfort zone has made me grow and mature so much over the past year. I’m blessed for all the lesson I’ve learned since I’ve been here.”

She credits her time with FC Buffalo for brining back the love of the game. FC Buffalo had just started a women’s team, and no one knew exactly what that was going to look like. The team was made up of a lot of Western New York athletes who were playing at Niagara, Canisius College and the University at Buffalo.

Playing on that team, with those player, brought back the love of the game for Araujo. After her time with Niagara, which was injury filled, Araujo didn’t know if she was every going to play again. There was something missing, maybe it was that fire that burns deep inside an athlete to be abel to compete.

All it took was playing with this special group of girls to get that fire back, and the rest is history.

“FC Buffalo played one of the biggest roles in making this possible. The whole environment, from coaches to players to fans all brought my love for the game back. I found my footing again. I loved being with the girls, I loved giving everything I had to a club that was giving everything to me right back,” explained Araujo. “Leaving college, I had literally no confidence at all and no motivation to keep playing. If you would have asked me in April of 2021 if I would ever go to Europe and play, I would have laughed in your face. I’ll never be able to put into words how grateful I am to every single person at FC Buffalo. I can’t wait till the day I can go back. I absolutely had no intention of ever playing again, never mind at level I’m playing at now. I was lacking motivation, confidence, and most of all I lost my love for the game during that point in my life. I feel for the girl I was at that time, but I’m so incredible blessed I was able to get that fire back when I least expected it.”

There is no book on how to be a professional athlete, or how long that journey will last. Right now Araujo is soaking in every little thing that is coming her way. Two years ago she was done playing the sport, lost that motivation to compete and win.

Last year, she was on her way to playing in one of the best leagues in the world. This year, she just got her first call up to the Portugal national team. Who know’s how long her professional career is going to last. Right now, Araujo is just soaking up every thing that is coming her way.

“The future is so hard to predict. Two years ago, I would have told you I was done playing soccer after college. Last year, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I’d be playing in arguably the best league in the world for professional women’s football right now,” stated Araujo. “I don’t have a time table for my career but I’m going to enjoy every day I have for the rest of the season and see where that takes me. I have already accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed of,”

At the end of the day, Araujo is still that little girl that is lacing up her cleats and running out on that dew filled pitch in the early morning hours with her friends, and teammates. She is still laughing, and making jokes. Having fun now, just like she did when she was a child.

The sport of soccer has given her so much, and she’s still trying to find the proper way of thanking it for that the sport has provided for her.

“I don’t think I know how to properly thank the game of soccer for allowing me to experience the world. I’m so incredibly blessed,” stated Araujo. “I have been to countries over the past 2 years, that I never thought I’d even visit. I have learned so many different cultures that now all play a part in the person I am. I have made memories that will last me a lifetime. It is such a beautiful and diverse game it’s hard to put into words how it’s changed my life forever.”

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