Saturday 15 July 2023, 06:15

Septet attend traditional Māori welcome ceremony in Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau

  • The ceremony officially marked and celebrated the beginning of the journey of seven participating teams

  • Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei welcomed teams to their tribal territory with a pōwhiri

  • Portugal Head Coach Francisco Neto, representing the teams present, took part in the whaikōrero

Seven of the participating FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ teams were officially welcomed to Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau this afternoon, when they gathered at the city’s Spark Arena for a pōwhiri. A pōwhiri is a traditional Māori welcoming ceremony performed to acknowledge and greet visitors. It is a significant cultural practice that showcases tikanga Māori customs, protocols, and values. The purpose of a pōwhiri is to establish a respectful and harmonious connection between the hosts and the visitors. The ceremony is usually led by representatives from the local iwi (tribe) or hapū (sub-tribe). The sequence of events may vary slightly depending on the specific marae and iwi traditions, but the fundamental elements remain the same.

Performers perform a Powhiri

Te Kahu Tōpuni o Tuperiri is a figurative term which likens the tribal territory of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in Tāmaki Makaurau to the ‘outstretched dogskin cloak of Tuperiri’. Tuperiri is the principal ancestor that connects all uri (descendants) of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei proudly welcomed teams, dignitaries and staff who will be based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ - from Portugal, Italy, Norway, Philippines, Vietnam, hosts New Zealand and reigning champions USA tournament - to their tribal territory. The ceremony is intended to provide an opportunity to experience the rich cultural traditions of the Māori people and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the indigenous culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. After the teams arrived and were individually briefed, the welcome began with the wero, a ceremonial challenge in which a warrior presents a token to test the intentions and respect of visitors before they are allowed to proceed onto the marae or hosts space.

Performers perform a Powhiri

As the respective team delegations made their way into the arena, they next experienced the karanga, a traditional call of welcome performed by female hosts to acknowledge and establish a connection with visitors. This is a deeply spiritual practice and brings the pōwhiri into a state of tapu (sacredness). This was combined with a haka pōwhiri, a powerful ceremonial dance performed by a group of warriors to welcome and intimidate visitors, showcasing strength, unity, and cultural identity.

Formal speeches then proceeded, delivered primarily in te reo māori, which is known as the whaikōrero and karakia. Portugal Head Coach Franciso Neto represented all seven teams, when he stood and delivered a speech – as requested by his guests - in his native tongue. The whaikōrero is a formal speech where both hosts and visitors express gratitude, establish connections, and acknowledge each other’s presence and customs. Following this, the New Zealand national team took part in a beautiful, guitar led waiata – Te Iwi E, which is performed to show unity and solidarity. This powerful song of welcome echoes the women's karanga. It draws hosts and visitors together through a shared memory of loved ones who have been lost from the land, by both war and migration. While showing grief, the singers also express earth-shaking pride in the achievements of those who went away to the war, and later, those who have found a new way of life in the cities.

Teams Continue to Arrive for FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 - Francisco Neto Hongi greeting

As the ceremony approached its latter stages, representatives of the teams and FIFA were invited for a hongi, a traditional māori greeting where two people press their noses and foreheads together, symbolising the exchange of breath and creating a sense of connection and oneness. At the conclusion of the pōwhiri, the whakanoa was performed, to remove tapu (sacredness) and restore a sense of balance and normality to the space and participants. The process concludes by sharing food and beverages, during which time each team were invited to pose for a commemorative image with the tribal warriors.

The pōwhiri today followed the celebration of Matariki yesterday, the Māori name for the cluster of stars (the Pleiades) that signals the Māori New Year. For Māori, the appearance of Matariki heralds a time of remembrance, joy and peace.

For the first time at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ a Cultural Panel has been established, and if the positive output of the panel is any indication, the initiative has proven a huge success. Guiding the tournament organisers on cultural matters is a panel known as the First Sisters of Country – whānau by sea and sky, made up of six women: three First Nations Australians and three Māori from Aotearoa New Zealand.