ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Baseball season may be long gonebut there was a World Series atmosphere at Busch Stadium Monday night.
The ballpark felt more like a soccer stadium in Bosnia.
Fans from around the world came for the international soccer match, pitting the Bosnian national team versus the Argentinian national team, a potential World Cup 2014 preview.
St. Louis boasts the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia: reportedly more than 60,000 strong.
Fans came from all corners of the U.S: Los Angeles to Boston.
There were even fans who came from Europe. They visited family in St. Louis – but would not have made the trip but for the soccer game.
Thousand lined up about 3 hours before kickoff with the stadium gates still locked.
They sang and chanted.
One chant loosely translated said, “who’s not jumping hates Bosnia.”
“Everybody has to jump,” laughed Saban Becirovic, a college student who drove from Connecticut for the game. He missed 2 days of school. “Wow it’s definitely a Bosnian town. I mean we have Bosnians in Connecticut but not this much… I wouldn’t drive 20 hours from Connecticut if it wasn’t a big deal.”
“It’s once in a life time. I really miss it you know,” said Roberto Raimondi, an outnumbered Argentina fan. The Argentinian moved to St. Louis 15 years ago.
A St. Louis Cardinals spokesman said there were more than 30,000 tickets sold, not counting a significant walk-up crowd tonight. Economic experts estimated $3 million worth of direct and indirect spending on a night when Busch Stadium would have otherwise been empty.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said the true impact was priceless given the international flair highlighting St. Louis’s cultural image.
It didn’t hurt having a Bosnian soccer star -- number 9 – who used to live and play here; first at Roosevelt High School and then St. Louis U.
“With a guy like Vedad Ibisevic playing, people around the world know that guy. He’s called St. Louis home. So it’s now like this home town team right here in St. Louis even though we’re talking about half a world away,” said Maggie Crane, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay.
Ibisevic nearly scored a goal.
Argentina won 2-0.
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