Bringing whānau closer to the stars on the basketball court

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The basketball community in Te Whanganui a Tara has organised a three-day festival event that coincides with the country’s first public holiday for Matariki.

The Basketball Matariki Festival organizer Damien Ekenasio, who is general manager of Capital Basketball, says his organisation creates tournaments for different basketball providers such as Special Olympics and others.

Having this event at the time of the Māori New Year was to have people from all walks of life join in for the love of the game.

“We had a good talk with our team. We were thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to bring everyone together, take the word tournament out of it and just call it a festival’, which is just a celebration of the game. Let’s just come together and have some fun.”

The all-inclusive event has Capital Basketball partnered with Special Olympics, which will also have nine teams playing in the tournament’s second day on Saturday.

“We’ve also got wheelchair basketball with give-it-a-go sessions for people to give that form of basketball a try.”

There’s even a format of the sport to get kaumātua and kuia involved too.

“The whole idea [of walking basketball] is some of our passionate whānau and elderly that can’t play anymore, they still want to play. So walking basketball is an option there as well.”

Ekenasio says that the festival is in “year one”, and he hopes to continue it into the future.

“It’s a little bit deeper than basketball. It’s really nice that the sense of community here is humming, and I think that’s just going to pump up even more over the next two days.”