On the Offense / A Title Deserved for All the Right Reasons

Why does doubt continue to reign, while Kiryat Shmona continues to improve?

The numbers say it all for Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona: 20 consecutive undefeated games, 14 of them wins; 0 goals conceded in its last six home games; an 11-point lead.

Nir Keidar

The team's supremacy on top of soccer's Premier League goes further. Kiryat Shmona has the most promising coach in Israeli soccer, certainly the most interesting and most innovative of them all. Despite a flurry of injuries, a quarter of which would have been enough for the coaches of the "Big Four" teams to sob and make excuses, the team has slightly bumped up its scoring production.

Ah, yes, and on Saturday even the team's normally apathetic fan base responded with 3,500 spectators showing up to its stadium. And they weren't even playing one of the dynasties but rather lowly Ramat Hasharon. How else can one look at these things other than to declare they are worth a championship?

So why is there still something small, inexplicable, beyond understanding and uncontrollable that doesn't allow any of us to believe anyone who avers with certainty that the championship is wrapped up and that Kiryat Shmona will celebrate the title?

Why, damn it, even I - who called on Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben Shimon eight rounds ago to talk about the championship, and was answered with 22 out of a possible 24 points - keep playing out scenarios in my mind in which the team blows its historic title?

All the while, Kiryat Shmona continually improves. Its quiet, self-assured and improved approach every game is deeper than we thought, sober and alert. Its opposition, by the way, is headed exactly the opposite direction. So why does doubt continue to reign?

Well, it's not you, Kiryat Shmona, but us. Cinderella stories, in every walk of life, are so rare these days that sometimes it seems they are impossible save for the five minutes of story time before bed. Moreover, concepts such as sporting justice, fiscal responsibility and long-term vision got trampled unceremoniously too many times, or were unmasked to the point that when one shows up before your very eyes you fear becoming addicted to it lest it betray you at the last moment.

At least in this regard we can be calm. Whether or not it wins the championship, this season's edition of Kriyat Shmona is a magical Cinderella story that is no fairy tale but the result of long-term vision and fiscal responsibility.

The championship will be well-deserved for all these reasons. And that day will come.