Skip to main content

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.
Kiryat Shmona players training at their ground in north Israel. The team clinched Israel's Premier League title on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT