Mataramos, Mexico, Mar 14 (EFE).- A group of Haitan migrants waiting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States have turned to basketball as a distraction from their precarious situation as refugees.
“The basketball team has helped them to raise their self-esteem, entertain themselves and make them realize that they can do something,” the director of the refugee shelter where the team is staying, Samuel Isaí Reyna Ruiz, told Efe.
What started as two baskets in the shelter’s courtyard has turned into a respected basketball team now competing in the a local league in Mataramos, a city on the northern border of Mexico.
“At the beginning, when other teams in the league saw the team was made up of people from different countries, they were surprised. But as soon as they saw them play, they gained respect and today they play very confidently,” Reyna Ruiz said.
Under the slogan ‘Migrants with attitude,’ the ‘Refugees’ team has big dreams and aims to become champions of the independent Mataramos league.
Since participating in the league, they have won four matches and only lost one.
“They have a very positive attitude, good vibes and dedication,” the team’s coach, Venezuelan Juan Bautista, told Efe.
Like all basketball teams, this one too has a star.
Lenos Dorvilien, a 1.96 meters tall Haitian, has earned the nickname of LeBron James, in honor of the American basketball star.
Lenos arrived two months ago in Matamoros and soon joined the team.
“I feel happy, I have a coach who has trained me well. And everyone calls me Lebron James,” he said.
The team also has the most outstanding player in the league so far.
Before embarking on a long journey from Haiti, Caribbean Junior Elpenord, was a basketball coach in Haiti.
“He is very happy about it, he has trained a lot and knows he can do even better,” his fellow team member, Luc Arthur St. German, said.
Even though some of the team’s players will end up crossing the border into the US, Reyna Ruiz believes the team has a future due to the continuous influx of migrants in Mataramos.
Mexican authorities have intercepted 73,034 irregular migrants so far this year, the National Migration Institute (INM) reported.
More than 114,000 foreigners were deported from Mexico in 2021, according to data from the country’s interior ministry.
Over 1.7 million undocumented mirgants were recorded at the US border with Mexico in 2021, according to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). EFE