Younger than most of its Liga Nacional colleagues, Deportivo Petapa only tasted top-flight football in Guatemala for the first time as recently as 2001. The Canaries were founded in 1979 as Sport Club Petapa Velásquez and spent their early years in existence in Guatemala’s lower divisions. Their promotion didn’t to the Liga Nacional didn’t last long, and the club have yo-yoed between the first and second flight ever since – they were promoted again before once more suffering relegation in 2009, but Petapa escaped the confines of the Primera División in 2010-11 to achieve a third promotion in a decade.
The side’s home ground, the imaginatively-named Estadio Municipal de San Miguel Petapa, holds around 7,000. Heavy rain in the region has forced the club to install artificial turf at the ground to avoid the match postponements which can cause a backlog of fixtures and stop a team in its tracks.
Although it may not boast any instantly recognizable names to European fans, Petapa’s squad features some interesting characters. Goalkeeper Richard Trigueño Foster has won over 50 caps for the Guatemala national side, and after leaving the club for CD Malateco at the end of the 2009-10 season, he returned after promotion to the top flight was achieved the following season.
Centre-back Marcelo Messias’ career has seen him travel the lengths of the Americas – an early spell at Brazilian outfit Grêmio was followed by stints at Guatemalan and Salvadoran clubs before Messias joined Petapa in 2012. The naturalized Salvadoran has won two caps for his new country, both in friendlies in 2011.
Forward Rafael Burgos and midfielder Christian Castillo complete a hat-trick of Salvadorans plying their trade at Petapa. Burgos, a promising youngster, has already scored 7 times in 14 games for his country, netting his first international goal on just his second senior appearance, against Costa Rica.
Castillo brings more experience to the side and has enjoyed spells at three clubs in his home country, as well as Club León in Mexico and a stint on loan at L.A. Galaxy. Castillo has played 37 games for El Salvador, scoring two of his three international goals against the USA in 2009.
Slightly better-known in Europe is Honduran defender Milton Palacios, brother of Johnny, Jerry, and Stoke City’s Wilson. Milton has won 15 caps for his country, but a less adventurous career than some of his Petapa colleagues means that this is his first spell abroad.
Finally, experienced forward Sandro Zamboni arrived at Petapa in 2010-11 having travelled the globe playing for clubs in Brazil, Japan, Germany, Qatar and El Salvador. Petapa have done well to secure the services of players who bring both quality and experience to a side that is likely to enter most seasons expecting a relegation battle.
However, Petapa suffered a horrible Apertura campaign from July to December. The side finished bottom of the twelve-team league, despite just one loss at home. The damage was done on their travels – Petapa lost nine and failed to win any of their eleven away fixtures.
Thankfully, the club’s situation has been greatly improved by their Clausura campaign. Petapa lie sixth in the table with six games remaining. This increase in fortunes has been aided by an improved away form, although it remains the side’s Achilles heel in their bid to secure safety. Petapa are currently in ninth place in the aggregate table, just three points clear of the relegation zone. Their successful Clausura may just save their bacon – had they endured another poor campaign in 2012, the Canaries would almost certainly be steeling themselves for a bottom-placed finish and a return to the second division.