Indigenous Mexican boys hailed for barefoot basketball
Indigenous Triquis boys' basketball team pose for photographers upon their arrival in Oaxaca, Mexico, on October 17, 2013
Wearing red and white tracksuits, the eight boys, aged nine to 12 and known as "the barefoot giants of the mountain," were met by throngs of television cameras at the Mexico City airport.
Scores of people from the impoverished Triqui mountain communities applauded them when they arrived later in their southern home state of Oaxaca, greeting them with star-shaped balloons.
Congress held a minute of applause on Wednesday, while President Enrique Pena Nieto hailed their undefeated run as a source of "pride for Mexicans."
Melquiades Ramirez, a nine-year-old nicknamed "Kevin Durant" (the 2.06-meter, or six-foot-nine NBA star), said the team did not know who they would play in Argentina "but we knew we would win."
And they won big, trouncing their seven opponents at the fourth annual Mini-Basketball World Festival in Cordoba, with scores ranging from 40-16 to 86-3, according to the Oaxaca state government.
The team comes from a basketball program created by their coach, Mexico City native Sergio Ramirez Zuniga, to help boys and girls from poor communities.
"Through sport, we seek to offer another life to the new generations," said Zuniga, whose program received funding from the Unified Movement of the Triqui Struggle known as MULT.
Fernando, 11, was among the players who chose to play without shoes "because I move better on the floor that way."
He said the coach has handed down a philosophy that "it's your attitude and not your abilities that make you a player."