Bosnian refugees began resettling in St. Louis almost 20 years ago. Through the hard work of the International Institute, Catholic Charities and other organizations, St. Louis has welcomed nearly 70,000 Bosnian refugees to the Gateway City.There are more Bosnian immigrants living in St. Louis than in any other city in the world outside of Bosnia.
One of the many positive aspects that the Bosnians brought with them was an absolute passion for futbol, or what we call, soccer. At the same time, St. Louis has a long and storied history of being one of the soccer capitals of America with many superb soccer stars coming from this area, including Harry and Ty Keough, Brad Davis and Taylor Twellman, to name a few.
Please add the name Vedad Ibisevic to the names of St. Louis soccer stars.
Last night, the Bosnian national team played their first ever World Cup match. They faced a tough first-round opponent in Argentina and soccer legend, Lionel Messi.
Vedad was born in Yugoslavia in 1984, before the civil war that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Bosnians. Vedad’s family fled first to Switzerland and then to St. Louis, Missouri.
The family enrolled Vedad at Roosevelt High School and he played soccer there for all 4 years. When he graduated in 2002, he was named one of the top 25 recruits in the U.S.
He played collegiate soccer at Saint Louis University, helping lead the team to the NCAA tournament. He scored 18 goals and 4 assists for the Billikens. He turned pro shortly thereafter and has been playing in Europe ever since.
Fast forward to last night, when Vedad joined his teammates on the Bosnian national team.
Bosnia played a fierce game. The team did get off on the wrong foot when Argentina scored its first goal off the leg of a Bosnian defender. Messi then gave the Argentinians a 2-0 lead after navigating around several Bosnian defenders.
And then in the 84th minute, Vedad slid past an Argentinian defender to a through ball, got in the box and shot through the legs of the Argentinian goalie. The first World Cup goal in Bosnia’s history.
The Bosnians did come up short, losing 2-1, but Vedad will receive a hero’s welcome the next time he comes to St. Louis. And it will be well deserved.