Budding Māori football stars battle for place against Hawaiian team

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Māori Football Aotearoa is preparing a team for their match against the indigenous Hawaiian side, Kanaka Pōwaewae, in July. They are currently holding wānanga at two marae in Tuakau, emphasising the importance of mātauranga Māori.

“I grew up in Central Auckland,” says 16-year-old football player Oscar Duffy, of Ngāpuhi, who was one of the 40-plus boys in attendance at the Waikato camp.

“So it's good being here learning that because I feel like it's something I'm quite detached from. But now I've been here four times and I feel way more connected now." 

Beginning in 2006, Māori Football Aotearoa aims to attract more Māori to the sport of football (whanapoikiri) and nurture the success of players both on and off the field.

"There were a lot of Māori playing football but they felt disconnected, so we felt the strength of Māori was to bring them all together,” says Chair of Māori Football Aotearoa Phillip Parker (Ngāti Manawa). 

There are more than 60 football players, both young men and women, who will battle it out on the field today in the North versus South game for a spot on the team that will face Kanaka Pōwaewae later this year.