Photo: Abraham Pineda Jácome / EFE
While waiting for the right moment to be able to cross into the United Statesa group of Haitians sweeps these days in the Mexican border city of Matamoros as part of a basketball group that revolutionizes the court.
“The basketball team has helped them a lot to raise their self-esteem, to entertain themselves. And so they know they can do something”, declares this Monday to EFE, the director of the shelter, Samuel Isaí Reyna Ruiz, a space that currently houses some 200 people.
He had the idea of placing two baskets in the courtyard of the hostel and organize parties inside the shelteras part of the sports and cultural activities carried out by this support space for migrants arriving in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, on the northern border of Mexico.
What started almost as a joke is now a reality that has motivated Haitian migrants and also Mexicansas well as his Venezuelan coachto make an effort on the court and maintain a good rhythm that has given them four wins and just one loss in the tournament.
Confident in their talent, when it comes to dreaming and turning it into reality, the migrants are persevering: they try to train on the improvised playing field at the shelter, and sometimes they go out to public sports units to exercise.
The team has the dream of becoming champions in the independent league that is played in Matamoros.
The refugee team that surprised everyone
Border residents, accustomed to playing with people from various regions of Mexico, were surprised when they saw Haitian players enter the field and compete using the language barrier and physical appearance, such as their height, to their advantage.
“Suddenly people from other countries came (to the league) and they were kind of surprised (the other players). But as they began to see them play, they gained respect, and today they play comfortably.”, mentions Reyna Ruiz.
The uniform they wear, donated by altruists, explains their presence in the region.
It is a yellow T-shirt with the slogan “Refugees”, and in the central part you can see a migrant walking with his backpack through the desert and in front of him some buzzards (vultures).
An image that is flanked by the flags of various countries and the phrase “Migrants with attitude.”
“I see a lot of positive attitude and good vibes from them. A lot of dedication, a lot of dedication”, the Venezuelan coach of the team, Juan Bautista, tells Efe.
The Haitian LeBron James
During the game, the migrants forget their difficult situation and play and run without complexes, as they may have had to run to reach this border. Thus escaping from reality.
One of them is lenos dorvilienan imposing Haitian 1.96 meters tall who he has earned the nickname of LeBron Jamesin honor of the American basketball star.
Lenos arrived in Matamoros two months ago and joined the team shortly after: “I feel happy, I have a coach who has trained me well. And everybody calls me Lebron James”, expresses the player.
Refugees Team it also has among its ranks the most outstanding player so far in the league.
This is the Caribbean Junior Elpenord, who previously trained this same sport in Haiti, and who today holds the highest number of points accumulated in the matches.
“He feels great about doing it, he trained a lot and he knows he can do even better,” says his translator and fellow team member Luc Arthur St. German.
At the end of each game they get back on the truck that transports them. Not without first shaking hands with the opponents and thanking them for the respect and coexistence during the confrontation
The director of the refuge, as well as the players, know that Refugees Team has a future because, although some will manage to cross to the United States to continue pursuing their dreams, another foreigner who arrives in the city of Matamoros and has the desire to jump onto the field can always be added to the team.
The region experiences a record flow to the United Stateswhose Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office detected more than 1.7 million undocumented immigrants on the border with Mexico in fiscal year 2021, which ended on September 30.
Mexico deported more than 114,000 foreigners in 2021, according to data from the country’s Ministry of the Interior.
The Mexican authorities have intercepted 73,034 foreigners with an irregular stay in national territory between January 1 and March 8 of this year, as recently reported by the National Migration Institute (INM).
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Refugiados Team, a basketball team that triumphs in Mexico and dreams of the US