Teammates honor youth player killed in Mexico with emotional tribute

Teammates and friends honored a youth soccer player killed by police in Mexico with an emotional tribute on Thursday that celebrated his love for the game.

Alexander Martinez, 16, was shot in southern Mexico on Tuesday by police, when he was on his way back from buying soft drinks for a gathering to celebrate a friend's birthday.

Before his funeral on Thursday, Martinez's wooden coffin was placed on the ground and angled in front of the goal frame on the soccer pitch in Acatlan de Perez Figueroa, Oaxaca. A teammate kicked a ball against it, with the ball rebounding into the goal to applause, before his friends gathered around to hug the coffin and say their emotional farewells.

The video went viral in Mexico and beyond.

Martinez was born in North Carolina but grew up in Mexico and played for the lower-division side at Academics de la Universidad del Golfo de Mexico in Orizaba, Veracruz. He had a scholarship to study at the university, according to Martinez's mother, Virginia Gomez, and had returned to Acatlan because training had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A Mexican judge on Saturday ordered one police officer to be held in preventive detention while he is investigated for the alleged murder.

The police officer was in a patrol driving with its vehicle lights off when it blocked the way of the boy and eight other youths, according to prosecutors. The officer then got out with a shotgun and opened fire, they said. Another boy whose motorcycle skidded during the incident was hospitalized in stable condition.

"There was a direct shooting toward nine youngsters that were on motorcycles, and as [Martinez] was at the front of the group of people, he died due to a head-on shot," Oaxaca state attorney Ruben Vasconcelos told The Associated Press.

The United States Embassy in Mexico released a statement on Thursday indicating it is monitoring the situation and is ready to offer consular assistance if necessary.

Martinez, whose nickname was "Chander," was registered with the Mexican soccer federation (FMF) and had featured for Liga MX club Monterrey's affiliate team in Tierra Blanca, Oaxaca.

"He was my baby, I fought for him, I did everything for him [to go play soccer]," said Martinez's mother in a video. "And look what they've done. They've destroyed me."

Monterrey captain Jose Basanta sent a video message via social media.

"I want to send my deepest condolences to the teammates, friends, loved ones and especially the mother of Alexander," said Basanta. "I'm really sorry. I send you a big hug, strength and I accompany you in your pain."

A flower arrangement in a shape of soccer ball was placed on Martinez's coffin during the funeral.

"He was a boy without any bad habits," brother Alexis Martinez said to Telemundo. "He didn't smoke, his only vice was football."