Kiryat Shemona, Beer Sheva and Israeli politics


You never quite know what you get when you attend a sporting event. Of course that’s usually what you would think if it was just the two teams on the pitch and in this case we are talking about Hapoel Beer Sheva and Kiryat Shemona in Israel’s Northern Capitol. 

Except tonight when Football Israel number one & number two kicked off, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu stole the show by dissolving the current government and calling for new elections. The news of elections in Israel, especially after a serious war this past summer trumps all other news, happenings and of course sporting events on that night.

Luckily, I was in Kiryat Shemona and not glued to the TV watching the political soap opera, but instead seeing how arguably the two top teams right now in Israel not named Maccabi Tel Aviv would fare against each other. After more than 10 years I finally made it all the way north to see the sights on and off of the football pitch.

Would Kiryat Shemona suffer their first home defeat since January 2014? How about their first loss of the 2014-15 season? Could Beer Sheva with their potent offense and top players come in and get closer to the top? Those were just some of the questions being asked by those in the “know”.

One of those people was Shachar whom I met walking through the quaint town early in the evening. He was decked out all in blue with Kiryat Shemona emblazoned on every piece of clothing from hat & scarf to pants and shoes! 

He asked me if I was there to support Kiryat Shemona? I guess he must know almost everyone in town and of course those who are regulars at the stadium.

I asked him what he thought of his club in comparison to others in the league. He pointedly said, hey we are a modest side. We don’t speed lots of money and we don’t have all of the name players like Maccabi Tel Aviv, Haifa and others. But take a look at how many people descended on this town from the center of the country including yourself. We must be doing something right.

Shachar couldn’t have uttered truer words about the situation in Kiryat Shemona. They defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv last week and ended up drawing 1-1 with Beer Sheva.

After the game, David Manga talked about that perhaps he and the club has lost a bit of confidence. He went on to say that last season was better than this and spoke honestly about confidence, confidence & more confidence. Quite curious that he was so confident that they were maybe, just maybe losing their confidence.

Born in Paris, the 25 year old plays internationally for the Central African Republic, a very small country and not one that has made an impact on the world stage. He has been able to supply a ton of assists and is very dangerous from the corners, but the goals are down from last year and that must certainly be bothering him.

With a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, Kiryat Shemona has drawn in the last two matches against Raanana & now Beer Sheva. Ben Biton score first for the visitors and Rodgers Kola brought his club level on a 2nd half penalty. 

Did we see “big” football? The answer is yes and no. There were scoring chances and both sides attempted to take the three points. Wete both teams playing a bit cautiously in order not to lose? The answer is yes which ends up resulting in a no, we did not see the best that each club could offer.

Maor Bozaglo & Shlomi Arbeitman both had games to forget and Elyaniv Barda had a couple of solid chances but no more. Nigerian John Ogu continues to impress as he moves extremely fluidly on the pitch and has terrific vision. You may want to call him the Yaya Toure of Israel.

For the hosts, Kola slotted home the one chance he had on the penalty as Manga struggled throughout the match and substitute Ofir Mizrachi did not have many opportunities. 

That being the result, both lost ground to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Should Tel Aviv win Wednesday night in Akko against Bnei Sakhnin they will leap frog Beer Sheva into 2nd place and only be two points behind first place Kiryat Shemona. It’s amazing how quickly things change up in Israel.

Something like the politics in this country.