Māori welcome brings five cultures and football together

Five cultures – representing past, present and future – met on Ōwae Marae, near New Plymouth, on Friday (29 May) as the region welcomed four international football teams with a traditional Māori powhiri.

Five cultures – representing past, present and future – met on Ōwae Marae, near New Plymouth, on Friday (29 May) as the region welcomed four international football teams with a traditional Māori powhiri.

Along with the welcoming party from the Māori community of Ōwae Marae – a place of deep cultural and historic significance to local Māori tribes – were the honoured guests, teams of FIFA U-20 footballers representing the future sporting hopes of Brazil, Nigeria, Hungary and Korea DPR.

The powhiri challenge and ceremonial welcome on to the marae – the traditional tribal meeting ground – took place within sight of Mt Taranaki, the near-perfect solitary volcanic cone and sacred mountain of the Māori people of the Taranaki region.

The four visiting football teams took part in the ceremony by singing a song from their own homeland.

The vast Taranaki region, on the western North Island coastline, takes its name from Mt Taranaki. Māori of this region trace their origins back to eight tribes.

Ōwae Marae is the ancestral home of the Māori people of Waitara – a small town, where 40% of the population of 6,500 is Māori, and which lies 16km north-east of New Plymouth, the main city in the Taranaki region.

Māori first settled there hundreds of years ago, and the marae occupies an area that was once an ancient pa (fortified village). The carved wharenui or meeting house ‘Te Ika-roa-a-Māui’ was completed in 1936.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd told the Taranaki Daily News: "We're thrilled to have the teams here and we wanted them to really experience something special from Taranaki, and a powhiri was the best way to do this.”

“The exchange of cultural expression between our five nations was incredible."

It was important to give the visiting footballers a traditional welcome and an experience that they would go away with and treasure, New Plymouth District Council event manager Melissa Devine-Collins said.

The powhiri was New Plymouth and the Taranaki region’s official welcome of the FIFA U-20 World Cup sides that will play their games at Stadium Taranaki on Monday (1.6.15) when Brazil takes on Nigeria at 1pm, and Korea plays Hungary at 4pm.

About the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015

Seven host cities across New Zealand will host some of the most talented rising stars of the world game at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015.

Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Wellington in the North Island will host games, while Christchurch and Dunedin will represent the South Island. The schedule sees four pool games played in two of the seven host cities daily - with plenty of double-header football action to whet the sporting appetite.

During the three-week tournament (30 May - 20 June, 2015) New Zealand will play host to 24 international teams, with a total of 52 matches played.

Broadcast to more than 100 countries, with a global reach of around 170 million people, the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 will also help promote New Zealand to the world. Thousands of overseas football fans are expected to travel to the country in support of their team.

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