Israeli named ‘Player of the Year’ in Belgian soccer league

Refaelov, 34, plays for Royal Antwerp as an attacking midfielder.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israeli soccer player Lior Refaelov was named Player of the Year in the Belgian Pro Soccer League last week, marking the first time that the honor was bestowed upon an Israeli.

Refaelov, 34, plays for Royal Antwerp as an attacking midfielder. The Or Akiva native joined his current team in 2018, but played in Belgium for nearly a decade beforehand.

The 2020 Golden Shoe Award, which Refaelov received last Wednesday, marked the third time a Royal Antwerp has won the title. The last time a Royal Antwerp player received the award was in 1966.

“What an amazing feeling! I’m so proud and honored to achieve this beautiful trophy,” Refaelov wrote on his Instagram account.

“It means a lot for me to be part of the history of Belgian football alongside amazing players. I would like to thank my teammates…board members, fans and everyone who helped to make it happen.”

In October 2020, Refaelov scored the only goal in a 1–0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the 2020 UEFA Europa League tournament.

At the ceremony, Peter Wandenbampt, a Belgian soccer commentator, said, “What Refaelov achieved in 2020 is phenomenal.”

“He was the man responsible for Antwerp’s two most stunning games this year – against Tottenham in the Europa League and in the Final Cup. In the Final Cup, Lior put Antwerp back on the map. [He reestablished Royal Antwerp] as a club and gave it a ticket to play in Europe once again.”

Former Belgian soccer player and commentator Gert Verhein said, “Refaelov… makes the difference for Antwerp in big games… and remains a great football player.

“For such a player, you buy a ticket and come to the stadium. Even as a commentator, you enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun to watch him play.”

The 2020 Player of the Year isn’t the first time Refaelov has been named the best player in a league. In 2011, Refealov won the Israeli equivalent of the award while playing for Maccabi Haifa.

In 2014, Rafealov’s wife, Gal, was crowned the “Most beautiful soccer player’s wife” in Belgium.