On October 2nd, 2013, the MLB franchise St. Louis Cardinals announced a football match between Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Argentina, to be played November 18th, at Busch Stadium, a baseball park that is capable of hosting football matches, and has done so already. On May 24th, Manchester City defeated Chelsea 4-3 at the same ballpark, thanks to goals from Edin Dzeko, a Bosnian football favorite. Lionel Messi is rumored to make the trip with the Argentine squad to play the in form Bosnian team.
Bosnia is not a lock to play Argentina however, since it is dependent on the team qualifying for World Cup 2014 in their Group G of European Qualifications. They currently lead the group on a major plus goal differential over 2nd place Greece. Bosnia have two matches remaining, at home to Liechtenstein, whom they outclassed 8-1 in the first encounter, and Lithuania three days later, a team that was also beaten.
Argentina already has qualified for the World Cup and has two more qualifying matches to play, also on Oct. 11 and 15. It is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Spain by FIFA.
Cardinals ownership realizes what an opportunity this is, for everyone involved. “We were going to sit back and take it easy until 2014, but we could not resist the chance to have a game with these two teams,” said Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III. “We’re aggressively pushing the envelope, but at least we don’t have to work this match around the baseball schedule (as the Cardinals did for the Chelsea-Manchester City game.)”
Cardinals ownership understands and respects St. Louis’ Bosnian population, honoring the group with a recent Bosnian Heritage Day at the park. The Cardinals are expecting a huge crowd for this matchup, thanks to St. Louis’ over 70,000 Bosnians that inhabit the mid-western city. The Manchester City and Chelsea game drew over 48,000 visitors to Busch Stadium, thanks to an appearance from the arguably the best Bosnian player at the moment, Edin Dzeko.
“For us, it’s not about Messi, Tevez, Di Maria, or the other Argentine stars, its about our own team coming to the de facto Bosnian-American capital!,” said Belma Hajric, a St. Louis native, and football fanatic. ”We follow all of our players’ games abroad. When Dzeko came to town with City, we packed the house, and this time, its going to be even better.”
With a population unofficially at over two hundred thousand in America, Bosnians have carved out their home in the once decrepit neighborhoods of St. Louis, Chicago, Bowling Green, and elsewhere, and made it thriving communities. Unlike other waves of immigrants in the United States, most Bosnians came in a single large wave, fleeing the ethnic hatred and cleansing in their home country in the brutal war of the early 1990s.
Cafes, halls, anything that can hold a large gathering of people often find themselves full to the brink with Bosnian fans on game-day. When Bosnia played in the qualification playoffs in 2009 and 2012 against Portugal, St. Louis saw mini parades all over the city, all local Bosnian support.
When Bosnia came to visit the United States for a friendly match against Mexico, first in 2011 in Atlanta, and again in 2012 in Chicago, the tour saw sold out stadiums, dominated by Bosnian fans, a rare sight in America, where Mexicans can just as easily pack the house.
The game is also a home coming for Stuttgart striker Vedad Ibisevic who began his career in the United States, playing for a local St. Louis High School, Roosevelt High, before going on to play for St. Louis University.
“It’ll be special to see players like Vedad Ibisevic, Pjanic, and Dzeko, because living here in the U.S. you don’t really get a chance to see them live, so for us this is a special opportunity,” said Mirza Ceric, a local business owner.
There will be a presale to Cardinals season ticket holders on Oct. 8, with tickets going on public sale on Oct. 10
PDF: [prettyfilelist type=”pdf” filestoshow=”2162,” hidefilter=”true” hidesort=”true” hidesearch=”true” filesPerPage=”3″]