Border club shakes up Isreali football league | sports | Hindustan Times
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Border club shakes up Isreali football league

sports Updated: Apr 01, 2012 01:10 IST

For several months, residents of this small town on Israel's northern frontier with Lebanon have been working themselves up into a frenzy. And for once, it is not over the threat of rocket fire from the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

What's gripping the 23,000 or so residents of this impoverished border town is football -- and the prospect that their local side, Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, looks set to win the Israeli premier league for the first time in the club's history.

Kiryat Shmona lies barely two kilometres (just over a mile) from the border and has, for decades, found itself the target of thousands of rockets fired over the border by Shiite militants.

“Our success is like a ray of sunshine for this area which has seen so many rocket attacks and difficult times,” says Ran Ben Shimon, who coaches the team of mostly unknown players which now looks set to defy Israel's finest.

They have already won the Toto Cup, the Israeli equivalent of England's Carling Cup, filling the club coffers with 240,000 euros ($315,000). They have qualified for the knockout stages of Israel's State Cup, and are also holding a strong lead in the premiership.

This minnow of Israeli football is hoping to perform well next year when it enters the Europa League and is likely to come up against the continent's giants.