Man City-Chelsea Match Hits Home in St. Louis

By Timmermann, Tom | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Man City-Chelsea Match Hits Home in St. Louis


Timmermann, Tom, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The soccer match between English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City on Thursday ultimately means nothing. The English season ends Sunday (with one tiny asterisk), the standings will be set, and the teams will fly to America for two games, one here and one in New York, that are, in soccer parlance, friendlies.

But for some people, the game means a lot. A chance to see a favorite team or a favorite player in person, to root not at a game on TV and not on a trip that might cost you thousands of dollars.

The final games of the English Premier League season are Sunday. Manchester City is already locked into second place, a finish that and long time Man City fans will chuckle at this is a bit disappointing considering the team came in first last season. Chelsea will finish either third or fourth, and therein lies the one technicality in which the English season might not end just yet. If Chelsea plays to a scoreless tie against Everton and fourth-place Arsenal beats Newcastle 2-1, the teams would finish tied for third in Premier League, and be even on all tiebreakers. Who's third and who's fourth in the EPL matters a good deal, since the fourth-place team has to go through a two-leg series to reach the main draw of the Champions League, while the third-place team goes straight to the group phase. The Premier League said Friday that the one-game playoff would be held on Sunday, May 26. It's not a simple parlay, but it could happen, in which case, no one's sure what happens.

"We have been assured by Relevant (the promoter) that Chelsea will play the match in St. Louis,"said Vicki Bryant, the Cardinals executive in charge of the event. A team publicist said the Rally Squirrel had been dispatched to England to make sure Chelsea won.

Here are some of the ways the game resonates in St. Louis.

THE FAVORITE SON

Ernis Basic of south St. Louis is sitting at an outdoor table at a hookah bar not far from Bevo Mill, lamenting that he and his friends were unable to get tickets to the game and that they're now going for many times their face value online.

"It's outrageous," he said. "The whole Bosnian community loves the sport, everything about the sport and especially because we have one of our natives playing in the game and he's considered one of the greatest soccer players."

He's referring to Man City striker Edin Deko, the Bosnian Diamond, who led the team in scoring in Premier League matches with 14 goals, even though he started just 15 games (he came on as a substitute in the other 16).

"Deko has made a name, not only for Bosnia, but for the whole soccer community," said Edis Subasic, one of Basic's friends.

While Basic and his friends are hoping to find less expensive tickets outside Busch Stadium on Thursday, Anel Mujkanovic, who works in the marketing department for SabaH, the St. Louis-based Bosnian newspaper, got three tickets, for himself, his father and his brother. The main attraction was Deko.

"The Bosnians who bought tickets did it in hopes of seeing Deko," Mujkanovic said. "I was not a Man City fan till Deko started playing for them. Before them, he was at Wolfsburg (in Germany) and I was a fan of theirs.

"I really didn't see fans for Man City who supported the team before. Mainly if they supported a club it was Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal. Since Deko went to City, if you go to bars or coffee shops early in the morning when the Premier League plays, they're watching him on television. If he goes somewhere else, I'll follow him. There's talk he might go to Borussia Dortmund. If that happens, I'll automatically stop following Man City."

Deko was born in Sarajevo, but with St. Louis' large Bosnian community, it makes him the closest thing to a local hero in the game. The only Bosnian player who even comes close among local fans is Vedad Ibisevic, a Bosnian refugee who came to America and played at Roosevelt High and St. Louis U. (for a year) before going pro and returning to Europe. …

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