'Groundbreaking treaty' signed between Māori Football and Indigenous Football

By James Perry

A groundbreaking 'Football Treaty' has been signed between Māori Football Aotearoa and the Australian Indigenous Football Council in Brisbane. 

Māori Football kaitiaki, Phil Parker (Ngāti Manawa), says it recognises the mana motuhake of both cultures and organisations while also opening up opportunities for both to develop their respective football programmes on an international level.

"It's really groundbreaking in the sense it now gives us the opportunity to create mana motuhake and also touring opportunities but also to carry both of our cultures to the globe, hopefully with the intention to wake some other indigenous peoples up who love football and want to use football as a vehicle for wellbeing."

The treaty will see Māori Football Association officials travel to Australia with tāne and wāhine teams at the end of June to play their Indigenous counterparts at the International Festival of Football during the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Week, which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Māori and First Nations people gain their voice inside the game of football.

Significantly, this will be the first time the Indigenous Council will host an international opponent and unify the mobs of Queensland for a football series. 

It will also see both organisations work together to get better recognition of indigenous football, not only in their respective countries but also by global administrators.

Seeking FIFA recognition

On the eve of the signing ceremony on Friday, letters were sent to FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, and Football Australia (FA) president Chris Nikou, calling for a new model that recognises self-determination, direct funding and recognition of indigenous representative teams.

Australia and New Zealand will host the FIFA Women's World Cup (FWWC) beginning in July. FIFA is under pressure to give more than symbolic representation to indigenous peoples at one of the world's biggest sporting events.

Parker and AIFC chairperson Lawrence Gilbert (Bundjalung) hope to meet Infantino next time the FIFA boss visits this part of the world.

"We are calling on FIFA president Gianni Infantino to recognise these rights of Indigenous peoples and commit to self-led programmes around the world," Gilbert said.

"[We] have requested a meeting while he and FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura are on Australian and New Zealand soil during the World Cup."

Parker says he wants to ensure FIFA leaves 'down under' knowing every event leaves a lasting impact on the hosts.

Hāpainga - rise up

"What we want to do is we want to ensure that any impact in any context, particularly for indigenous or First Nations or Aboriginal peoples is in a positive context so that we can then support the delivery of any activities."

Those activities include a busy six months for MFA with the tour to Australia finishing just three weeks before youth sides from Hui Kanaka Powawae from Hawai'i arrive in Aotearoa. 

"It's been quite a long three years in the making. We didn't quite anticipate trying to juggle or navigate two international activities so close together. 

"We have a tagline hāpainga which means to rise up. And essentially, our belief and our vision is to go around and create one football culture underpinned by indigenous values."

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