By Gonzalo Domínguez Loeda
Caracas, Jun 22 (EFE).- No need for white flags in the basketball court, where respect for the game is a given. In the slums of Caracas, violence is ingrained in the scenery, a daily occurence that, nonetheless, refrains from creeping onto the basketball court, a peaceful oasis, no one’s and everyone’s land.
“For crime, this is a taboo, they respect the space, from the moment they enter,” says Juan Toro, a local basketball coach.
No one would recognize him by that name in Catia, an enormous slum at the western edge of Caracas, where he is known as Snow White, a legend in the Magallanes neighbourhood.
“There has never been a shooting or anything else inside the court,” says Snow White, sitting inside his sanctuary, the court and school that gave him his nickname.
“Here, you have to earn respect. It can’t be bought. They know that,” he says.
The rules that govern the Magallanes could seem tortuous to foreigners but are very clear for residents, packed with taboos at every turn of its sinuous streets covered in self-made homes and barely any pavement at all.
“Many of those involved in crime say: ‘this is the court of professor Snow White and Omar, they are helping the community’,” he explains.
Behind him, mixed teams carry out a game, as the players mimic basketball icons and enjoy the safe haven that the court has become.
Johnderwin Zambrano says he owes his life to the sport, as he tries to give back to the community through work with NGO Caracas Mi Convive, focused on reducing violence in the city.