Sports have always been a powerful tool to bring people together and foster values such as teamwork, discipline, and perseverance. For the Triqui ethnic group in the Sierra de Oaxaca, basketball has become more than just a game; it's a way to keep their children away from violence and drugs, and a path to education and success. The Barefoot Champions of the Mountain, as they are known, have captured the world's attention with their remarkable achievements and inspiring story.
The Birth of the ABIM Program
The Asociación de Básquetbol Indígena de México (ABIM) program was created by coach and elementary school teacher Sergio Zúñiga to offer a safe and productive activity for children and teenagers from the Triqui community. The program's philosophy is simple but effective: use basketball as a tool to develop the players' competitive spirit, discipline, and academic performance. In addition to being skilled players, the children must meet strict requirements to belong to the team, including a minimum grade point average of 8.5, fluency in their native language, assistance with homework, and good behavior in school.
The Triqui children's basketball team has gained worldwide recognition not only for their impressive skills but also for their unique playing style: they play barefoot. While it may seem unusual, playing without shoes is a common practice in the Triqui community, where many people cannot afford proper footwear. The barefoot playing has become a symbol of the team's resilience and determination to overcome adversity, on and off the court.
From Local Heroes to International Champions
The Triqui team's success story started in 2013 when they participated in their first international competition in Argentina, where they won the championship against more experienced teams. The world took notice of their talent, passion, and commitment to the sport, and they soon became a sensation. The government of Los Angeles, California, recognized their achievements by establishing December 27 as "Trike Basketball Team Day." The team's subsequent victories in the United States and Barcelona cemented their status as one of the most exciting and inspiring sports teams in the world.
For the Triqui children, basketball is not only a game but a way to break the cycle of poverty and violence that affects many indigenous communities in Mexico. By promoting education, discipline, and teamwork, the ABIM program helps children to develop their full potential and pursue their dreams. Some of the team's former players have gone on to study at prestigious universities in Mexico and the United States, while others have become coaches or mentors for younger generations.
The Triqui children's basketball team is a shining example of how sports can transform lives and inspire people around the world. Their story is a reminder of the power of resilience, determination, and community to overcome adversity and achieve greatness. As we celebrate their achievements, we should also recognize the challenges that many indigenous communities still face in Mexico and other parts of the world. By supporting programs like ABIM, we can help more children to have a brighter future and become the next Barefoot Champions of the Mountain.