It was through sheer force of will and spirit — and not fancy sneakers — that a group of indigenous boys from the mountains of Mexico won a world youth basketball tournament, trouncing their opponents even while several players ran barefoot.
The boys, despite their short stature, won with scores ranging from 40-16 to 86-3, according to their local Oaxaca state government, which hailed them as returning heroes Thursday.
Their Trique families were generally unable to afford shoes so the young athletes became comfortable moving on the court in bare feet. Now, some of them prefer to play that way and turn down offers of footwear.
The team comes from a basketball program created by their coach, Mexico City native Sergio Ramirez Zuniga, to help both boys and girls from poor communities in Oaxaca. He has handed down a philosophy, reports the AFP news agency, that “it’s your attitude and not your abilities that make you a player.”
Following their undefeated performance in seven games at the fourth annual Mini-Basketball World Festival in Argentina, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted Wednesday, “The victories of the Trique Indian team from Oaxaca’s Academy of Indigenous Basketball make Mexicans proud.”
Throngs of television cameras, reporters and fans greeted them at the airport upon their return to Mexico City.
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