Saturday 12 August 2023, 07:00

FIFA host Māori youth and chaperones for an unforgettable experience

48 Māori rangatahi (youth) aged 11-18 and 9 chaperones from - Rangiora, Alexandra, Christchurch, Levin, Rotorua, Tauranga, Gisborne, Paihia, Kaikohe and KeriKeri - were guests of FIFA last night at the quarter-final match between Japan and Sweden at Eden Park. Led by Jennifer Pickering who is a member of the FIFA Cultural Advisory Panel, for some of the children - the majority of whom represent Māori Football Aotearoa regional teams, or local club and school teams - it was the first time they had been on an aeroplane, let alone attended an international football match.

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura with kids group during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Quarter Final match between Japan and Sweden at Eden Park

After a day of fun activities - today they were going to also visit the FIFA Fan Festival and iconic lnadmark, the Sky Tower - the experience became even more special once they arrived at the stadium, with an introduction to Football Ferns Head Coach Jitka Klimková - who led her team to a historic first FIFA Women's World Cup victory at this tournament - as well as FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura and New Zealand Football President Johanna Wood. Also attending the match was Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Cindy Kiro. Dame Kiro is the first Māori woman – she is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent – to be appointed as Governor-General and is a champion for social justice, equity and public health.

The invitation to the children follows on from a similar opportunity for 50 First Nations girls aged 11-15 from Western Australia, Northern Territory and Central/Far North Queensland, who were treated to a trip of a lifetime when they visited Brisbane/Meaanjin for the match between England v Nigeria. The girls and their ten female chaperones – including mothers, aunties, grandmothers, sisters and teachers – were treated to a trip full of football, memories and messages of empowerment. Speaking after that match, the FIFA Secretary General said: “This trip will give them memories for a lifetime. We want to empower young girls from remote communities so they can find their voice and own their spaces.”