Monday, May 21, 2012
The last few weeks have been wonderful for English teams. Manchester City won this season's English Premier League and in the past weekend Chelsea won the coveted UEFA Champion's League. Both are remarkable achievements but in the midst of their celebrations some people are stating that the teams only won their titles due to previously unheard of sums of money. Is there a chance that small teams can still make an impact in the world of football? A team in Israel's Premier League is proving that there is still romance and hope for smaller teams.
On the 2 April 2012, IIroni Kiryat Shmona secured their maiden title win with a 0–0 draw against league giants Hapoel Tel Aviv. Remarkably, IIroni Kiryat Shmona, won the title with five games to go. It is an even bigger achievement when you consider the history of the club.
The club has been in existence for 12 years, been promoted, relegated and promoted again through the ranks of Israel's football ranks to ultimately win the country's highest football honor. They are not a small club who has wealthy benefactors, nor are they are hugely followed team whose supporters drive large income streams through the club. They come from a town of 21,000 people and play in a stadium with a maximum capacity of 5,500 fans. A bare minimum squad of 26 has reached the pinnacle of domestic football and will now play in the qualifying stages of the UEFA Champions League. In a city more accustomed to missile attacks as one of the most northern of Israel's cities, Ironi Kiryat Shmona are now making fireworks of their own. Now those fireworks will have the chance to enter Europe's biggest football scene.
The biggest of Israel's clubs, Maccabi Haifa FC, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem FC have been confounded by IIroni Kiryat Shmona's success. With a dramatically smaller budget, playing group and staff IIroni Kiryat Shmona have become the little club who could. In the club's early days, and perhaps with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC owner Izzy Sheratzky suggested, "When I founded the club I said that one day we would reach the Champions League," His light-hearted suggestion is now a dawning reality.
Their fans put their success down to one thing, a lack of ego in the squad. A simple but effective ethos that many small clubs would, it could be suggested, be looking to emulate.