Appearing at a first FIFA World Cup™ finals may have proved a bridge too far for Guatemala to date, but that has not stopped the country playing host to one of Central America’s most heated rivalries. Municipal and Comunicaciones have long been forces on the regional stage, while their domestic meetings invariably affect the destination of that season’s silverware, as was the case in the recent Apertura 2009.

Los Rojos, Municipal, are known as El equipo del pueblo (The people’s team), and have traditionally drawn their support from Guatemala’s working classes. Los Cremas, Comunicaciones, in contrast have always been associated with the country’s higher social strata. Even now, though the teams’ fanbases are no longer divided by such clear lines, this social element continues to fan the flames of an already fierce rivalry.

The origins
Founded in 1936, Municipal were made to wait until the 1942/43 season for their first title, though they have barely stopped collecting silverware since. Often found blocking Los Rojos’ path to league glory are Comunicaciones, with the pair sharing a remarkable 18 league crowns between 1950 and 1980, thus forging a level of mutual tension and enmity which shows no signs of diminishing.

Facts and figures
Of course, the pair’s quest for honours did not draw to a close come the 1980s. Indeed, following Municipal’s narrow 1-0 aggregate victory over Comunicaciones in December’s Apertura final, Los Rojos now boast a record 27 league titles to their nemesis’ 22. In clásicos between the two sides, the stats are even tighter, with El equipo de pueblo leading by 87 wins compared to 82 for the Los Albos, with 78 draws.

Tales of derbies past
Supporters of both teams rarely let an opportunity for a playful jibe at their rivals’ expense pass them by. A popular Municipal boast is that Los Rojos are the only Guatemalan club to take sole possession of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, now the CONCACAF Champions League.

However, Los Cremas’ followers are swift to counter that in the year of that triumph, 1974, the competition did not feature any representatives from regional superpowers Mexico. And Comunicaciones did jointly claim the 1978 edition of the CONCACAF showpiece, sharing the title with Mexico's Universidad de Guadalajara and Defence Force from Trinidad and Tobago, as well as finishing runners-up to Mexican sides in 1962 and 1969.

Intriguingly, the history of the Guatemalan duo has long been intertwined with Mexico, with Los Cremas adopting the kit colours and nickname of America, Mexico’s traditional big-spenders and bad-boy team. Municipal, meanwhile, share a nickname and colours with Las Chivas of Guadalajara, America’s arch-rivals and famous for only fielding Mexican nationals.

Another snippet for trivia fans is that both Los Rojos and Los Cremas claim to hold the record for most consecutive domestic crowns, and both are technically correct. The latter won four league titles between 1996 and 2000, under the previous long tournament format. Municipal, for their part, won five short tournaments in a row between 2004 and 2006, though given the new system were champions for a shorter period of time – provoking a debate which still rages in Chapín football circles.

The rivalry today
The rivalry between both teams still burns exceedingly bright, particularly following an Apertura 2009 final which gave Municipal the chance to avenge defeat in the previous year’s Apertura decider by Comunicaciones.

In a tense and keenly contested two-legged tie, a goal from Argentinian Martin Crossa in the 88th minute of the first leg gave Los Rojos a vital edge ahead of the return. A stoic defensive performance followed, featuring a superb display from keeper Jaime Penedo, to secure a 0-0 second-leg result and lift the trophy at the expense of their age-old foes.