By Dominic Jose Bisogno.
After 40 years of history, sagas that included trophies, the Copa Libertadores and the production of talent that would end up playing in Europe; at the end of 2021, it looked like Trujillanos Fútbol Club was about to become nothing more than a chapter in a textbook.
The Copa Venezuela titles of 1992 and 2010, the origins of players like Wilker Angel, Arquímedes Figuera and Juan Falcón, and even the club’s Copa Libertadores against The Strongest in 2016 all seemed destined to be lost in the ages.
If Unión Atlético Maracaibo, Deportivo Anzoátegui and Minervén – all with legacies in Venezuelan football and the Libertadores – could disappear entirely or almost, why not Trujillanos?
The club was far from the capital of Venezuelan football. In fact, based in the town of Valera, Trujillanos are one of the few recent top division clubs not to be based in the state capital to begin with, despite being the only major club in the Estado Trujillo (State of Trujillo).
– Trujillanos FC (@trufc) March 3, 2022
Trujillanos’ problems came to a head in 2021 when the team fielded a largely young and inexperienced squad to circumvent growing problems from all corners.
The team, while containing talent, got just one point in 24 games, were relegated well before the end of the season. It was such a drastic event that, even in Venezuelan football which often sees one or two clubs win lopsided relegations, it was a major talking point.
Many have suggested halfway through the regular season – with Trujillanos suffering losses sometimes separated by four, five, six goals – that the club should simply be ejected from the league.
For Trujillanos, the troubles began long before the traumatic 2021 season. Rubén Pérez, one of the minds behind Trujillo-focused sports journalism group SoloTrujillanos, said the club was indebted to players, coaches and d other staff dating back to 2019.
The debts would only get worse over time, with a whole season of additional contracts to be paid by the end of the year. While standout players like Lete Ortiz, Ronny Maza and José Hernández Chávez had all left since 2020, most left as free agents, a common problem caused by the one-year contract model in La Liga FUTVE.
Once the 2021 season ended, many assumed the club was dead. Many players have been signed from other clubs in the first month of 2022, including Brando Castillo and Jair Andara at Carabobo FC and Jean Gutiérrez at reigning champions Deportivo Táchira.
Trujillanos would surely be swallowed up by his debts and disappear. But then, a thin but incredibly bright light emerged.
Hugo López, a name that will appear several times, would emerge at the beginning of January at the head of a group of businessmen interested in buying the club. The potential owners, however, would demand that a fixed solution be found to tackle and possibly pay off the club’s debts.
After weeks of speculation, López will explain the situation in an open letter: “We must establish a maximum waiting period until next Thursday, January 20. If this is not achieved… we will have to set aside the acquisition of Trujillanos.
As the 20th approached, positive news would flood in, suggesting former players and the staff of Los Guerreros had been convinced to accept the debt reduction plan. But, as the fateful day approached, word remained that only five, and then three, players by some reports were resisting.
It was not until the afternoon of January 21, after a publicly quiet night on the 20th from Camp López, that the public face of the takeover would announce that all negotiations had been finalized.
Trujillanos would survive to fight another day, with the recovery and renovation of the club’s stadium, Estadio José Alberto Pérez, as one of his first assignments.
SoloTrujillanos reported on February 11 that club representatives were present for the first assembly meeting of the 2022 La Liga FUTVE 2 season, which is likely to start in mid-March. On February 14, reports confirmed that former Deportivo La Guaira, Deportivo Lara, Portuguesa and UCV manager Lenín Bastidas would manage the club for the 2022 season.
Trujillanos FC would hold a press conference on February 17. During which, Hugo Pérez, now with the title of club president, would give assurances that the takeover had been successfully completed.
Joined by state governor Gerardo Marquez, the panel will note that the club would be owned independently of local government, although the state would provide assistance with travel to and from games for the press, among other services.
On the 18th, SoloTrujillanos reported that Trujillanos’ debts were officially in the process of being paid, with an additional report on March 4 indicating that 99 players had had their debt canceled, with four remaining to be settled.
Wonderful news for #Trujillanos. They have yet to earn promotion, but this historic club seems more and more alive every week. https://t.co/K6vuw9GVeL
— Dominic Jose Bisogno (@DJBisogno) March 5, 2022
For journalist Rubén Pérez, the revival of Trujillanos Fútbol Club is much more than a mark on a league table. Pérez explains that saving Trujillanos is saving part of the Trujillo family.
“It’s the same as when you have a family member on the verge of death and all of a sudden they can recover,” he said.
“For many Trujillanos, the Amarillo and Brown is more than our football team. I would say it’s a way of life. Trujillanos fans are everyday warriors.
He adds that without Trujillanos FC, by far the biggest club the state has ever produced, football in Trujillo would have suffered a serious blow.
“Football in Trujillo could become an orphan if Trujillanos FC disappears. In 2008 there was another team called Atlético Trujillo and it never caught anyone’s interest. Trujillanos’ identity has no replacement.
“In addition, the only international historical heritage of the State of Trujillo would be lost. Without Trujillanos, state football would also die. A popular team is not the same as a team without popularity, where no one cares what happens to them.
El corazón vuelve a latir⚽ Vuelve Trujillanos FC⚽ pic.twitter.com/ZeHLx2YAme
— Diego Linares (@truji_de) March 4, 2022
Atlético Trujillo, a short-lived lower division team, at one point climbed to the second tier, only to merge and disappear within Real Esppor, which would later be renamed Deportivo La Guaira.
Pérez says work is not being done to bring Trujillanos back to a healthy state of being. He says the organization as a whole must be restored if hopes for immediate promotion are to be realised.
“I think the first thing is to completely clean up the institution and then with good sports management look for a return to the first division.
“That includes a proper coaching staff whose way of working is respected and a good team is put together.
“With the recovery of the historic warrior caste and the dynamism of all the people of Trujillo, I am sure that we will return to the first division this year.”
Ultimately, Trujillanos’ planned participation in the 2022 Liga FutVe 2 season is not a promise of redemption. It’s an extremely difficult league to exit for most, sometimes with only one promotion spot to fight for.
However, it has managed to be a reasonable home for historic clubs like ULA and UCV. The latter, a historic club founded in 1950 but excluded from the First Division for much of the late 20th century, won promotion in 2020 and have performed well since.
Maybe Trujillanos will return in a year or two, maybe his fans will have to wait longer. Either way, with the club still functioning, there is a vanguard capable of guiding Estado Trujillo’s football enthusiasts forward. These days, that might be enough.