Shoeless Indian boys: No Nikes needed to win basketball tournament

Shoeless Indian boys: They weren't just shoeless, they were short. But the Trique Indian team of boys from Mexico swept all six games in South American basketball tournament.

By , Associated Press

  • close
    A Mexican youth basketball team played shoeless and won a tournament in Argentina. The team was from the Trique Indian tribe of Oaxaca.
    View Caption

A team of Trique Indian boys swept through a youth basketball tournament despite their generally short stature and the fact that most play barefoot, earning acclaim in Mexico and abroad.

The team from the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca won all six of its games to become this year's champions at the International Festival of Mini-Basketball held recently in Argentina.

Other teams in the tournament dubbed the boys the "the barefoot mice from Mexico" because they are smaller than the other competitors, said Ernesto Merino, one of the team's coaches and a Trique Indian. He said they compensate for their short stature with "strength, speed and resistance."

Recommended: How much do you know about Mexico? Take our quiz.

Children are given tennis shoes when they join the team, but many don't wear the sneakers because they are accustomed to going barefoot, Merino said.

Merino said they grow up in large, poor families who struggle to find the money to buy clothes and shoes.

"For them it's normal to not have shoes, to walk barefoot," he said.

The team's performance won it a minute of applause Wednesday on the floor of Mexico's Chamber of Deputies, as well as accolades from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and basketball experts.

"The victories of the Trique Indian team from Oaxaca's Academy of Indigenous Basketball make Mexicans proud," Pena Nieto said in a tweet.

Horacio Muratore, president of the International Basketball Federation-Americas, which organizes the annual tournament, said the boys were the best players.

"These boys deserved (the championship) more than anyone," Muratore wrote on the organization's website.

The boys' achievement has come at a particularly sensitive time for Mexico, which is agonizing over the poor performance of its once well-regarded national soccer team. The Tri, as it's known, has barely kept its hopes alive for qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

Merino said the boys who played at the tournament held in Cordoba, Argentina, are part of a basketball program designed to help poor children in Oaxaca, which is one of Mexico's poorest and most marginalized areas. The Oaxaca state government gives them tennis shoes, uniforms and a monthly $46 stipend.

"We see a basketball as an opportunity to grow in life," Merino said.

The program was started three years ago and it currently has 40 children enrolled, including five girls.

To enter the program, children must have good grades in school, speak their native tongue and help with chores at home.

"We want them to be prepared in life," Merino said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share this story:
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...