SJU junior following native Sweden in World Cup - from Washington, D.C.

Bookmark and Share

July 3, 2018

By Mike Killeen

Bardia in front of White HouseSaint John’s University junior Bardia Bijani Aval is currently in Washington, D.C., serving as an education and diversity intern at the American Physical Society, a non-profit working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics.

But come July 15, the internship may have to wait a few days.

Bijani Aval was born and raised in Sweden. And if his home country advances to the final of the World Cup soccer tournament, let’s just say he will miss a few days of work.

“I did promise my family that if Sweden goes through to the final, I am coming home for the weekend,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss that for the world!”

Sweden took a step in that direction with a 1-0 win over Switzerland Tuesday, July 3, in Russia. It’s the first time Sweden has qualified for the World Cup quarterfinals since 1994. Sweden now faces England on Saturday, July 7. England defeated Colombia on  penalty kicks, 4-3, after playing to a 1-1 draw.

“I saw the (Sweden) match, and was delighted with the result,” said Bijani Aval, who is in Washington as part of the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University Summer Study Program. “Sweden was coordinated throughout, and the teamwork paid off.

“The fact (Sweden) that they won the group was a surprise, but it was expected of the team to go through (to the knockout round of 16),” Bijani Aval added. “The country is bound to go crazy (Tuesday).”

Bijani Aval, an integrative science major at SJU, calls the World Cup “the greatest sports event in the world.”

How great?

In February 2018, just over 100 million people around the world watched the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl played in Minneapolis. In 2014, the last time the World Cup was held, 1 billion people around the world watched Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time.

That’s right, 1 billion people.

“The magnitude of this event is unfathomable, and it allows people all over the world to put their politics and everyday lives aside, to enjoy what we call ‘the beautiful game.’ Nothing really compares,” Bijani Aval said.

Both his parents are from Iran – another country that qualified for the tournament, but was eliminated in the group stage.

“Both countries are of huge importance to me. I was heartbroken when Iran went out by such a small margin – especially since they were playing so well in the most competitive group – but found comfort in that Sweden managed to make it through to the knockout stages,” he said.

“Now, I want Sweden to show what they are made of,” Bijani Aval said.