Minnows Kiryat Shmona clinch Israeli title
April 2, 2012 -- Updated 2127 GMT (0527 HKT)
Kiryat Shmona players training at their ground in north Israel. The team clinched Israel's Premier League title on Monday.
- Tiny club from northern Israel claims Israel Premier League title for the first time
- Draw gives Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona an unassailable 16-point lead in title race
- Town of 23,000 residents caught up Arab-Israeli conflict over the years
- Champions League football awaits the town's 5,000-seater stadium next season
(CNN) -- Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona have been crowned champions of Israel's Premier League for the first time in their history after a goalless draw at home to Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday.
It is a remarkable achievement for the tiny club from a small northern town (Kiryat Shmona) close to the border with Lebanon in a league traditionally dominated by the country's "big four" teams -- Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem.
Monday night's result now gives them an unassailable 16-point lead in the league and caps a memorable season for a place which has regularly found itself caught in the crossfire of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In January this year, the team secured the Toto Cup -- a major domestic tournament -- beating Hapoel Tel Aviv in a penalty shoot-out.
Kiryat Shmona has only been known for war and poverty in recent years. People have been leaving in their droves. But the club has given the population some pride back again
James Montague, Middle East football expert
"It's an incredible achievement," says James Montague, author of "When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone," a book about football and politics in the Middle East.
"It's a tiny place right on the frontier of one of the Middle East's most enduring conflicts, not to mention the very edge of European football," he added.
"Kiryat Shmona has only been known for war and poverty in recent years. People have been leaving in their droves. But the club has given the population some pride back again."
The team, which represent a population of 23,000 and play in a stadium with a capacity of around 5,000, now face the prospect of something altogether grander.
As Premier League champions, Kiryat Shmona have qualified for next season's Champions League's preliminary rounds which get underway in July.
Winning the title is just the start, says Montague.
"Imagine if this tiny club get to play Barcelona? It's no longer an impossible dream."
Part of complete coverage on
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
April 24, 2013 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Luis Suarez's biting of Branislav Ivanovic is the latest episode of moments of madness when soccer stars behave badly.
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 0938 GMT (1738 HKT)
Sunderland's partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation is part of its bid to woo the African market.
March 28, 2013 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Each year as many as 700 Cameroonian young footballers leave Africa in search of a professional career abroad.
May 6, 2013 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Referees across Europe are feeling the heat. Insulted, threatened, chased off the field, attacked, hospitalized and, tragically, killed.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
A red card for Manchester United's Nani during Tuesday's loss to Real Madrid sparks huge social media reaction.
February 26, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Footballers have a battery of physios, fitness trainers and doctors all striving to fine-tune their physique -- but are they missing a trick?
February 26, 2013 -- Updated 1424 GMT (2224 HKT)
No Englishman has won the EPL title in over 20 years, while a leading manager reveals that English coaches are now "not respected abroad."
May 13, 2013 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
Hardcore Italian football "ultra" Federico is a Lazio supporter who happily admits directing monkey chants at black players.
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
When Jupp Heynckes made his Bundesliga debut as a player in 1965, the name of Bayern Munich was a new one for the nascent German league.
February 19, 2013 -- Updated 1902 GMT (0302 HKT)
Football's world governing body FIFA has confirmed it will use goal-line technology at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
February 19, 2013 -- Updated 1403 GMT (2203 HKT)
Match-fixing has become a worldwide issue, with hundreds of matches under investigation -- but how do you actually fix a football game?
February 18, 2013 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
U.S soccer star Robbie Rogers has "come out" as gay on the day he retired from the game, making the announcement on his blog.
February 11, 2013 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
The wealth of owners like Chelsea's Roman Abramovich often fuels success, but for other clubs such backers prove a mixed blessing.
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Brand Beckham is moving from the "City of Angels" to the "City of Light" as the football icon signs a short-term deal and offers to give away his pay.
January 31, 2013 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
Fireworks inside his own house, a car crash in his first week at Manchester City, that iconic t-shirt -- the EPL will miss Mario Balotelli.
January 30, 2013 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
The Secret Footballer reveals the complex issues surrounding racism in the English Premier League.
January 30, 2013 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
The death of 73 football fans in Port Said tragedy continues to haunt Egypt.
Today's five most popular stories