Guatemala may be a small nation, but its collective passion for the beautiful game is anything but. This passion burns particularly fiercely in the case of fans of Comunicaciones, one of the country's two biggest clubs along with fierce rivals Municipal. Indeed, derby clashes between the leading pair regularly make the country grind to a standstill as football followers and neutrals alike gather to watch events unfold.
Comunicaciones are also a force on the continental stage, with the recently crowned Guatemalan champions boasting one win and two runners-up finishes in the coveted CONCACAF Champions' Cup (now the CONCACAF Champions League). This regional success is a further boon to Los Cremas' millions of supporters, whose club is known for sending out attacking, adventurous sides year in and year out.
Birth of an institution
In 1940s Guatemala there was a club called Hospicio which, short of funds, decided to change its name to España in a bid to earn the backing of the country's Spanish expatriate community. Though this initiative was unsuccessful, better times were just around the corner after the financially challenged outfit were taken over in 1949 by Carlos Aldana Sandoval, Guatemala's then Communications Minister.
Titles were not long in coming for a team whose brand of open, attractive football earned them ever increasing numbers of supporters. In 1956 the club now known as Comunicaciones won their first national league crown, before repeating the feat in 1958 and 1960. It was also around this time that they were dubbed Los Cremas (The Creams), thanks to the colour of their jerseys which had been based on those of Mexican heavyweights America, a club for whom Comunicaciones' fans still have a great deal of affection.
The making of a legend
Yet after the 1960 triumph, the team also known as Los Albos would have to wait nine seasons for another league success, a goal from Carlos Rivas clinching the title in the 1968/69 campaign. That win heralded the start of a golden period for the side from the Estadio Mateo Flores, which would last for a further four years.
In 1970/71 Comunicaciones performed a remarkable clean sweep of domestic league, cup and Champion of Champions trophy as well as the regional Torneo de la Fraternidad Centroamericana (which later became the Copa Interclubes UNCAF). The following season they claimed their sixth domestic league title, during which they lost just one game, before the 1972/73 season saw them crowned domestic champs for a third consecutive year - a club first.
A brief lull period followed this glorious era, with Los Cremas failing to add to their haul of league conquests until number eight arrived in 1977. Two years later came number nine, swiftly followed by titles ten and 11 in 1981 and 1982, the club's second tricampeonato (three championships in a row) and one spearheaded by forward Byron Perez - widely regarded as Comunicaciones finest ever player and a genuine Guatemalan footballing great. Perez and Co also jointly won the 1978 CONCACAF Champions' Cup crown, an honour they shared with Mexico's Universidad de Guadalajara and Defence Force from Trinidad and Tobago.
After their 1982 win, Los Albos added just the 1985 edition to their trophy cabinet during the remainder of the 80s though the 90s would prove a memorable era for all concerned. The decade witnessed an astonishing six more league crowns coming to the Estadio Mateo Flores, including the club's first tetracampeonato (four in a row).
The turn of the new millennium augured well for the team from Guatemala City, which won two Clausura and one Apertura title between 2000 and 2003. This harvest dried up over the next five years, until Comunicaciones rediscovered the trophy trail with success in the Apertura 2008.
To make this recent championship all the sweeter, it came at the expense of arch-rivals Municipal. With Los Cremas having won the first leg of the Apertura final 2-1, Municipal's Selvyn Ponciano levelled the tie overall when opening the scoring in the return. Then came the decisive intervention of Comunicaciones' star man, Costa Rica's Rolando Fonseca, who popped up to equalise and seal a 3-2 aggregate win for Los Albos.
The Mateo Flores is Guatemala's most important stadium. Built in 1948, it is the home of Chapín football's two biggest clubs, Comunicaciones and Municipal, and boasts a capacity of 30,000. It has also hosted the Central American Games and various other international events.