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St. Louis prep star leads village to top of Bundesliga
by Paul Kennedy, August 26th, 2008 7AM



[GERMANY] Hoffenheim, a village with a population of 3,272, is the surprise leader of Germany's Bundesliga after two days, and its star is a former St. Louis prep star.

Bosnian-born Vedad Ibisevic, who attended Roosevelt High School in St. Louis and starred briefly for Saint Louis University (18 goals in 22 games) before being recruited by Paris St. Germain, scored the only goal as Hoffenheim beat Borussia Moenchengladbach, 1-0, on Saturday for its second straight win. Ibisevic had scored twice when Hoffenbeim won at Energie Cottbus, 3-0, the week before.

Ibisevic is part of the team assembled by president Dietmar Hopp that his friend, Juergen Klinsmann, says will "sooner or later become a superpower."

Hopp, a former IBM engineer who made his fortune in SAP, the world's biggest maker of business-management software, invested in the 109-year-old club at which he played as an amateur.

Hopp, 68, has reportedly spent more than 100 million euros ($149 million) on its climb three levels to Germany's top league. Ibisevic, who played at PSG and Dijon in France before moving to Alemannia Aachen, joined Hoffenbeim in 2007 for its final push from the Second Division to the top. Hopp spent $29 million on new players in 2007 -- an unheard-of amount for a D2 team.

Hoffenheim, who played before a crowd of 26,000 in Mannheim, nearly eight times the population of its hometown. Hoffenheim is playing in Mannheim, 30 miles away, until its 30,500-seat Rhein Neckar Arena, built at a cost of $75 million, opens in January.

Hoffenheim's fairy-tale story is drawing the interest of fans who have flocked from across Germany to the village in search of souvenirs.

Hoffenbeim, which has one bus that runs once an hour (twice from noon to 1 p.m. to accommodate the lunch crowd), had one fan club a year ago. It now has 15.

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