Vedad Ibisevic is on fire.
FC Hoffenheim's striker has scored 6 goals and assisted in two more in his club's blazing start in this years season. Hoffenheim lie in second place behind Schalke.
Its a fairy tale start for a perennial second division team that was promoted for the first time in club history to the Bundesliga. And its success is making waves. Tiny Hoffenhiem with a population of 3,272 does not even play in its own stadium which is 30 miles in Mannheim. The club will get its own stadium in January 2009.
Ibisevic originally from war torn Bosnia and Herzegovina came to the US with his family in 2001 via Switzerland. Already an accomplished youth player playing for the Bosnian U-16 team, he joined Roosevelt High and played for Busch select team, before earning
a scholarship to St. Louis University. It was not an easy transition with Ibisevic struggling with the language. For him soccer provided an escape from the trauma of war and an unfamiliar country. But despite these hardships, his talent on the field was unmistakable.
"After just 10 minutes in his first practice with Busch, I realized how good this kid was," Ibisevic's Busch soccer coach Mike Turner said. "He has got to be one of the top college prospects in the Midwest. He is an excellent attacking forward and the best natural scorer in the area. There is no doubt that he will have a terrific career at St. Louis University."
St Louis has always been a fount of talent for US soccer with the quintet of local players celebrated in the movie, The Game of their Lives, the story of the memorable win over England in the 1950 World Cup. St Louis University was part of that tradition, the strongest NSCAA program with 10 national titles. The players were overwhelmingly white and Catholic. Soccer saw a decline in the 1980s and 1990s as these folks took off in an urban white flight to the west. Vedad Ibisevic, on the vanguard of mostly Bosnians and Hispanics immigrants have re-energized the scene to some extent.
Ibisevic's SLU career was stellar and he shattered fellow Billiken Brian McBride's rookie record scoring 18 goals and assisting in 4 others in 22 games. He was named the NCAA Freshman of the Year, as well as a first team All-American. He also became Conference USA's Freshman of the year and was selected to the first team.
In the 2003 C-USA tournament, he set a record with four goals and nine total points against UAB in the semifinals. He was profiled in Soccer America as one of the 25 hottest recruiting prospects and while still in college he joined St Louis Strikers in 2003 before moving onto the Chicago Fire Reserves, both teams being part of the Player Development League, the amateur league of the USL.
A player of such talent did not go unnoticed in Europe and during the off season while training with the U21 Bosnia squad he was spotted by Paris Saint-Germain F.C.'s Bosnian manager Vahid Halilhodžic, who quickly signed him to play for the renowned French team for the coming season. This was the launch for Ibisevic's European career seems to have accelerated forward in dizzying fashion with FC Hoffenheim.