Sports

A soccer team unites the Bosnian community in St. Louis

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Credit: Pogled u Nebo/Wikimedia Commons
The Bosnian-Herzegovina national soccer team poses together.

St. Louis is home to a big Bosnian immigrant community. In fact, it's the largest Bosnian community anywhere outside of Bosnia-Herzegovinia.

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Next week, Bosnia's national soccer team, freshly qualified to go to next year's World Cup in Brazil, will be in St. Louis to play a friendly match against Argentina. Some hometown fans say they can hardly wait.

Muhamed Hasic, the executive director of the Islamic Cultural Center, says everybody in the St. Louis Bosnian community is excited.

"Many families here are expecting their family relatives or friends from all over North America to come to St Louis," he said. "Maybe my brother will come from Canada!"

This is the first time since Bosnia won its independence from the former Yugoslavia that a Bosnian national team will go to the World Cup finals, says Hasic. "It's definitely a really big success for the national team and for all of us, so everybody's basically talking about it and it's coming closer and closer," he says.

Medina Gotic has been living in St. Louis for almost 20 years. Standing in her beauty salon, she says the whole community is excited for the team's success — and its trip to St. Louis. "It makes us so proud," she says. "It's the first time something really good happened to my country after the war, since 1992.

"Everybody's talking, women, men, children," she explains. "I think children are the most excited. They love our players, they all have their jerseys with Jeko's name on it. Everybody — not only the guys — are excited. It doesn't matter who's going to win the friendly. I just wish them all the best for now and in Brazil."

Akif Cogo, a first generation Bosnian immigrant, says he's excited, too, to host the Bosnian team in St. Louis for the first time. "I am extremely attached to the country and the team because of the recent accomplishments of the team qualifying for the World Cup, plus what the team brings to the table back home, with ... unifying the country through the sports," he says.

His seat for the friendly is located behind the goal, so it will be fairly close to the action. "I'm taking my entire family, that includes my mother and brother and everyone else," he says. "I believe that most of the Bosnians in St Louis going to the game will be making it a family event and everyone, young and old, will be attending that game. It should be very, very interesting."

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