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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 17:24 GMT
Ivorians on verge of history
Beveren midfielder Yaya Toure
Yaya Toure, younger brother of Arsenal defender Kolo Toure, is one of Beveren's 14 Ivorians

Belgian first division side KSK Beveren are in line to field a team made up of eleven footballers from the Ivory Coast.

At present, the first division side has often fielded a team constituting ten Ivorians in addition to Latvian defender Igor Stepanovs.

Yet Stepanovs is on loan from English Premiership club Arsenal and once he returns to the London-based side in January, his place in the Beveren defence is expected to be filled by another Ivorian - central defender Lolo Igor.

Should the Belgian club then field a team comprising eleven foreigners of the same nationality, this would establish a new record in European football.

Since the start of the 2003-04 season, Beveren - who have 14 footballers from the Ivory Coast on their books - have taken to the pitch with ten Ivorians in the side on five occasions.

The west African colonization of Beveren began in June 2001 when the club was in severe financial difficulty but was saved by a rescue package initiated by French coach Jean Marc-Guillou.

Guillou, who had founded a football academy in the Ivory Coast linked to Asec Mimosas, formed an association with a limited company, found financial backing from Arsenal and offered Beveren 1.5 million euros plus an annual input of four players from his academy.

The simple plan has had spectacular results.

"Since the beginning of this season, I have heard it said that Beveren play the most attractive football in Belgium," said Remy Laguesse, Guillou's French assistant.

Forward Constant Kipre, midfielders Yaya Toure and Gilles Yapi Yapo have underpinned this achievement and are now big stars in the Belgian league.

Yet there are those that find the situation less favourable.

The president of first division rivals RC Genk has questioned how Beveren's approach is helping the development of Belgian football.

"It is true that Beveren delight the public," said Jos Vaessen.

"But the training of young Belgian players is in danger."

Following Beveren's 4-0 triumph away to Cercle Brugge on Sunday, the Ivorian-dependent club currently lies twelth in Belgium's 18-team first division.




SEE ALSO
Ivory Coast march on
05 Dec 03  |  African
Ivorians look to Nouzaret
27 Nov 03  |  African
Asec win Ivorian title
10 Nov 03  |  African
Beveren's Ivorian legion
28 May 03  |  African



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