2011 – 2012 was spectacular when it came to football all across Europe. We saw Manchester City clinch the league title after 44 years, Real Madrid seal their 32nd La Liga title and finally, Montpellier HSC, introduced as the new and the first time champions of France’s Ligue 1.
The surprise keeps on coming though.
This time it is the first time winners of Israel’s top-flight football – Ligat Ha’Al – Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona FC. A club with the longest name I have ever come across.
With similar pre-season banter to that of Montpellier, the very thought of Ironi Kiryat Shmona winning the title at a tear would have drawn hilarity and mockery.
The team based in city of Kiryat Shmona, close to the Lebanese border, was only created in 2000 as a result of a merger between two clubs. This season the recently resigned manager of Ironi Kiryat – Ran Ben Shimon’s frugal side managed to annihilate the opposition on their way to 73 points leaving the rest to battle for the next few spots. And a thought-provoking point fact is that the highest scorer in the team; Shimon Abuhatzira had only 13 goals to show for throughout the league.
And now the team from the northerly part of Israel is representing the nation and inviting their European opposition to their home stadium, which can accommodate close to 2,200 people at a time, as they aim to qualify for UEFA Champions League.
This truly is a Cinderella-esque story.