On a rare sunny morning at the OFC Home of Football, the local iwi and Kaumatua, (maori elder) joined OFC dignitaries, OFC staff and the New Zealand U-19 team in welcoming each visiting team ahead of the kick-off of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2017 tomorrow, Tuesday 11th July 2017.
This ceremony is known as a Powhiri, and is part of New Zealand Maori culture. It expresses pleasure at receiving visitors to their land and that they are looking forward to exchanging information and knowledge.
The Kaumatua addressed the gathering with a speech welcoming everyone to New Zealand, and in particular to Ngahue Reserve.
After this welcoming speech, the head coach for Tonga, Christian Koaneti, replied to his speech on behalf of all the visiting teams and guests.
Koaneti expressed his gratitude and sincere thanks to the Kaumatua for the warm welcoming.
Chris Kemp, the OFC Competition Director also delivered a speech on behalf of Oceania to all six competing wishing them all the best for the upcoming championship before declaring the tournament officially open.
The Kaumatua then invited the team managers and coaches to come forward to shake hands and hongi.
While a short and sweet ceremony, it was a thoroughly enjoyable cultural experience for all who attended.
Tonga team captain, Halaúnga Taholo says,’’It is an honour and privilege to be part of this Powhiri and I’ve learned a bit about New Zealand Maori culture.”
“I was a player back with the Tonga U-20 team in 2014 for the OFC U-20 Women’s championship which New Zealand hosted and I remembered that we did not received a ceremony like this,’’ she added.
“I myself and the rest of the Tonga team are so impressed with the Powhiri, we feel secure now and we are ready for the championship. Therefore, thank you so much for the warmth Powhiri!, it’s really gives courage and confidence, ófa atu,” said Taholo.
The teams were welcomed during the ceremony were, Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the referees.