In a way, albeit a very small way, it is a shame for Ironi Kiryat Shmona that it
dominated its Premier League opponents to such an extent that it clinched the
championship five matches before the end of the 2011/12 season.
the northerners built a double- digit lead at the top of the standings as early
as January meant that its supporters and sports fans across the country had
plenty of time to digest Kiryat Shmona’s incredible triumph, perhaps even taking
for granted the unparalleled accomplishment.
So astonishing is the club’s
success that it is difficult to even sift through all the details that have made
this such a memorable feat.
Where do you start? Maybe with the fact that
the club only came into existence in its current form in 2000, or possibly with
the knowledge that this is only Kiryat Shmona’s fourth season in the top
Perhaps the most amazing part of all is that Kiryat Shmona became
the first real small club to win the championship since Bnei Yehuda in the
1989/90 campaign and the first team from outside of Israel’s big three cities,
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, to lift the title since Maccabi Netanya did so 29
The list goes on and on.
Anywhere you look, you will
find another reason why Kiryat Shmona’s achievement is unlike any other in the
history of Israeli soccer.
“I’m stunned. We have completed an amazing
course,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon after his team clinched the
championship with a 0-0 draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday
“This season was a collection of amazing moments. We progressed
with every week and every match was special in its own way.”
It is easy
to forget now, but Kiryat Shmona got the season off to a disappointing
One of the surprises of last season, Kiryat Shmona’s biggest
concern ahead of the start of the current campaign was to avoid the
After finishing their first ever campaign in the
top flight in third place in 2007/08, the northerners were disappointingly
relegated the following year.
They bounced right back and finished last
season in fifth place as well as claiming the Toto Cup, their first ever
Kiryat Shmona would have been more than happy to emulate last
term’s success in 2011/12, but it had real reason for concern when it found
itself in 11th place after winning just one of its first six matches of the
However, everything began to fall into place in October, with the
team winning 11 of its next 12 matches, including over all the traditional big
four, Maccabi Haifa, Betar Jerusalem, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv, who
hoarded all but two championships over the past 28 years.
pre-season favorites falling by the wayside, Kiryat Shmona surged into the
distance, opening a 14-point gap at the top by the time its 25-match unbeaten
streak was snapped by Betar Jerusalem last month.
By clinching the
championship five matches before the end of the season, the northerners have
equaled the league record and should they increase the 16- point lead they hold
at the moment by the end of the season they will better the record for the
largest margin ever between first and second place.
When Kiryat Shmona
first achieved promotion five seasons ago owner Izzy Sheratzky said that within
10 years the team will win the league title and play in the Champions
He has amazingly lived up to his promise in half the time he
predicted and is already plotting future success.
“It will be difficult
to win the championship two years in a row, but I’m certain we will finish in
the top three next season,” said Sheratzky, who decided to spend millions of
shekels a year on Kiryat Shmona’s soccer club simply because he was looking for
more ways to help a beleaguered region of the country.
“This wasn’t a
one-off. We will win the title again over the next four years.
biggest accomplishment for me is that there were more media representatives in
this match than there were in the city during the second Lebanon war.
have turned Kiryat Shmona into a happy city and that says it all.”
a clash of egos between Sheratzky and Ben-Shimon means the coach will be leaving
at the end of the campaign, the owner has almost all his stars under contract at
least through next season.
Gili Landau will be announced as the new coach
once the season ends, and although he has never succeeded at the very top, the
owner is confident he has made the right choice, just as he did when he
Kiryat Shmona became the 13th club to win the
Israeli championship, but only eight teams have lifted more than one league
That is Kiryat Shmona’s next goal, together with reaching the
Champions League group stage.
Should it manage to do so, the club from
Israel’s northern-most city with a population of 23,000 will be one of the
smallest ever to play in European soccer’s most prestigious
There is a reason clubs like Kiryat Shmona don’t win
championships, which is why despite all that has transpired over recent months,
similar success seems unlikely.
But there will be plenty of time to
ponder the inevitable future troubles.
Now is the time to celebrate the
most uplifting story in Israeli soccer in recent memory.
No matter what
happens from here out, the fantastic memories created by Kiryat Shmona this
season will last a lifetime, and that is priceless.[email protected]
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