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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
European Preview: Belgium
Rabiu Afolabi is back after an unsuccessful year in Italy
BBC Sport Online's Filippo Maria Ricci turns his attention to Belgium's first division and previews the country which recruits more players direct from Africa than any other in Europe.

Sierra Leone's Paul Kpaka has got his new Belgian season off to a flying start.

He scored a hat-trick for GBA on his debut.

And he wasn't the only one to begin at a new club by scoring.

Togo's Djima Oyawole at Ghent, Senegal's Seringe Gadiaga for Lierse and Ivorian Venance Zeze at Beveren all began their Belgian division one debuts with a goal.

The influence of African players in the Belgian first division is growing every year.

This season there are over 80 Africans continent in the top division.

Westerlo is the only team without an African in their ranks, while Lokeren have 13.

Super Eagles partnership

Some big names have arrived in Belgium during the summer.

Nigerian defender Godwin Okpara is back in the Belgian league after five years in France.

He has signed for Standard Liege, where he will join fellow Nigerian defender Rabiu Afolabi, who is back after a terrible year on loan to Naples in Italy's Serie A.

They will come up against Togolese forward Djima Oyawole has joined Ghent from Metz in France.


Okpara - back in Belgium
As well as the imports, many African players have moved clubs inside Belgium.

Congo Kinshasa's Jean-Paul Boeka Lisasi, who scored 12 goals last season for Westerlo, has accepted to help Malines climb to the first division.

Nigeria's Ode Thompson has joined Anderlecht from Ghent, while another in-form striker, Burkinabe Beli Moumouni Dagano, has left GBA for Genk.

Overseas interests

Belgium is also the most active European country in recruiting players straight from Africa.

In the off-season 15 youngsters arrived in Belgium - most from the Ivory Coast.

Beveren signed five from the famous academy of ASEC Abidjan.

Other newcomers are Egyptian El Said who left Zamalek for Anderlecht and Moroccans Cherji who moved from Raja Casablanca to Eendracht Alost and El Ouchla who arrived at RWDM from FAR Rabat.

But while African players are coming in - some are leaving too.

Egyptian Ahmed Hassan has signed for Dutch giant Ajax after having scored 11 goals last season for Ghent.

Nigerian defender Joseph Yobo left Standard Liege to join French side Marseille, and Togo's Adekanmi Olufade is off to France too having signed for Lille after scoring six goals for Lokeren last year.

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