When you think of Oaxaca, Mexico, you may not immediately think of basketball. But thanks to Los Niños Triquis, that’s about to change.
The latest feat of the indigenous youth basketball team from Oaxaca is Copa Barcelona, where they won the title after beating French team Gravelins 39-18 in the final.
To reach the final game last Sunday, the Oaxacan squad defeated Club Esportiu Vila Olímpica, French team Unión Olympique, team Colegio Jesús María y José from Catalonia, and Belgian team St. Louis. The team members who won the Copa under Coach Sergio Zúñiga are: Dylan Ramírez, Tobías de Jesús, Bernabé Martínez, Aniceto Guzmán, Efrén Martínez, Daniel Shalom, Luis Enrique Vargas, and Anselmo de Jesús.
This isn’t the first time the team has emerged victorious, winning championships in Mexico, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. Many of the team’s members hail from impoverished communities in Oaxaca, and their success story is popular in Mexico.
Formerly a sports trainer, Coach Sergio Zúñiga opened the Academy of Indigenous Basketball three years ago. The organization provides children with the opportunity to go to school and play basketball. Out of the approximately 2,000 children that attend the academy, the top 150 study in the capital of Oaxaca and compete on the team, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While many kids must abandon their education in order to work, playing on the team helps them stay in school, as good grades are one of the requisites for being part of the squad. This was Zúñiga’s motivation for starting the initiative. As the team is proving, basketball is more than just a sport for the indigenous youth of Oaxaca; it’s a path to future opportunities and success.