FT 9/23 Ergänzung: Mãori Football Aotearoa - Interview mit Phill Pickering-Parker
Mãori Football Aotearoa: "Football is the vessel for discovering your past"
We joined Māori Football Aotearoa's U18 girls' and boys' teams for their camp, where they were preparing for the Polynesian Youth Cup, a two-leg contest against Hawaii. During the day, we sat down with the Māori Football's Chairman and U18 Head Coach, Phill Pickering-Parker, to discuss the organisation's work on and off the pitch. U18 girls' Head Coach Taelor Pickering-Parker and U16 Head Coach Tim Bodger also joined us for the talk.
FT: Your organisation has the structure of a Māori tribe. Could you explain what this means?
Phill: In the overarching governance sense, our committee or our board don't have one leader; we have dual leaders based on male and female balance. This is based on Te Ao Māori – how we see the world as Māori. Men were secondary to women in our culture, which is not always the case in other cultures. Women were primary because they carry life, they are the Māori, and without the woman we all perish. So, women were held in the highest possible regard. We've retained that gender-balance philosophy.
In terms of leadership, man and woman must make the decision equally. That decision is then passed across everyone else on the board. Everyone must be in agreement for the decision to be made – I mean everybody. If someone says no, we don't do it.
Our football philosophy is "mo te kapa mo tanga taka toa" ("For the team, for the people"). So hopefully you would have seen out there [in the session], to create chemistry, we start with small group play. And then we drill it down to the individual. So "For the team", we're actually talking about you as an individual: what are you going to contribute to the team as an individual through player action/task? "For the people" means all of us individually contributing to the higher purpose, which is to put together a display that our people are happy with. As Māori, we are highly competitive and really adventurous because we were the last tribe to find the last piece of uninhabited landmass. We are the last tribe of the world's tribes to actually find the last piece of land, which is Aotearoa.
In terms of being creative, adventurous, and brave, we still have that built in us. So, our organisation's football philosophy mo te kapa mo tanga taka toa relates back to that: do individuals contribute to the team? Does the team contribute to all of our people? Can we convince more Māori that aren't playing football to go "you know what, football's actually not a bad game, it's exciting"?
We're also trying to convince and transform opinion to broaden the appreciation of football. That's what "for the people" means. When our teams play, we must convince them to be excited about what they watch. And that's basically what our football philosophy is trying to do.
Chemistry is about finding the connection with somebody that you have something in common with, that you're prepared to sacrifice for the other person.
Another question linked to the FIFA Women's World Cup, have you felt that that's had an impact on girls' participation in football over the last couple of months?
I believe so. There's certainly more programmes that have been advertised. Tim might be able to answer that. I'm no longer coaching inside club, I work at confederation level as well as OFC player developer and officer. So that responsibility means I'm concentrating across the 11 members [of the confederation]. I've seen an increase in other countries with the uptake. The organisation of organised activity still needs to be improved. But there's certainly a raised awareness. In the four countries I've already been to this year I've seen more girls turning up to programmes. But I'll throw it over to Tim and Taelor as they work at club level.
Tim: There's definitely been an increase. At the local club here a couple of years ago there were only four girls teams, now they're up to about ten. The girls pathway is one of the fastest growing parts of the club. There's been an increase of numbers in terms of sheer awareness of the World Cup.
Your organisation's purpose is to get more Māori playing more football. How has this mission been going?
Taelor: Originally we started with one team. But even with that one team we still had to have invitational players because we couldn't form a full Māori team. We were a team of Pacific islander players, Greek players and more. That's where it started. Now we've got four female teams comprised of all Māori players who all whakapapa back to Māori. That's a massive growth. How it spreads around is that when we go back to our environments, our responsibility doesn't stop here on the pitch. We have to go and promote Māori football and find our whānau and bring them back to the game, bring them into this environment. And how this kind of spreads is about who you know.
This not just in football, it's about life in general. When we go back into our club environment it's having that conversation: "Are you Māori? Do you play football? Oh cool, let's go. I know this thing called Māori Football. What is that?" Then this shows interest and then that's how it grows. Then we had media that helped out to spread the message. And then you have the likes of those three Football Fern [national team] players identifying as Māori and their messages that they've put out into the media – that encourages more Māori players. It's definitely growing, when you consider where it started from. All the female players know that the purpose is for them to keep finding others. The message of our philosophy mo te kapa mo tanga taka toa is for the people. "We are our people, come back, you're never lost."
So this has progressed over time. And now to take the Māori U18s to a FIFA World Cup opening match, asked us that two years ago and I wouldn't have thought that would happen: that we're in camp and they're going to watch the national team in our Māori football kits. So that's definitely going to raise awareness. There might be a conversation that sparks up.
When we went to a USA game during the NBS, there were a couple of girls that wore their Māori football gear. These girls told us at the end of the game that they were approached for photos! "Oh you're part of that Māori Football team, how's your camp going!?" That gives them the mana and puffs their chest out a little bit. The hope is to continue that on.
Next week you're playing in the Polynesian Youth Cup against Hawaii. What is the interaction like between you and other organisations promoting the engagement of indigenous people in football? Is the knowledge exchange?
Phill: We're still feeling each other out. There's lots of conversation and lots of dialogue – not so much in terms of coaching exchange, philosophy, methodology. That stuff hasn't quite started yet as we're still right at the inception of the relationship, but that will come though. And this will come in the way of a coach exchange. As an example, next year we've already planned to take our teams across to Hawaii. So one of the things I've spoken to their president about is having some kind of a coaching conference or workshop, where we can actually sit down and share our metaphor.
I would be interested whether they use metaphor like we do, for example. Like we've just discussed, tāngata rongonui is about founding your 'powerful one' to draw upon. I can speak for Australia, they don't use this. Their coaches are football coaches: 4-3-3, build up like this etc. They don't weave cultural aspects into their game like us. Whereas we're gaining more and more experience in where that sweet spot is actually found. We need to continue to progress that potential conversation. Once we've had this first series, and they can get a bit of a feel for us, we'll then approach them for information exchange and hopefully formalise a platform where we can exchange this stuff. Too early to share. But the potential is very high for that to happen.
In your training session you played what looked like a traditional Māori game as a warm-up. Players each had a stick and had to simultaneously let go of their stick and catch another at the same time. Could you explain what this was?
Taelor: This is called Māori Mātau. It's about learning your left and right. "Mauī" is left and "Mātau" is right. When you hear the call, you have to work in unison. Otherwise, if one person is a second too slow they cause chaos for the rest of the group. It goes with the slogan he waka eke noa – moving together as one. It's a reactionary thing as well. You have games like "head, shoulders and ball". This is just a Māori version of that without the ball. By the end of the week, the goal is for the stick to not drop. This is a Māori approach to that kind of reactionary game.
|Mãori Concept||Meaning||Application to Football|
|Te Ao Mãori|
Te Ao Māori is theMāori world, including its language, protocols and customs.
Māori Football Aotearoa's leadership structure follows that traditionally adopted in Te Ao Māori.
Identifying your 'famous' ancestor. Today, you are representing this ancestor and have no choice but to be responsible for them and the lineage you are both part of.
Māori Football Aotearoa players know their Tāngata Rongonui. When on the pitch, they need to be responsible for the footballing decisions they make.
The process of announcing one's genealogy. In Māori culture this is significant as it situates the individual in the natural and social world.
Individual players recite their Whakapapa. By doing this they put their energy out into the room, allowing another team-mate to connect to it, creating chemistry.
A traditional Māori game. Participants each have a stick and, on someone's call, must let go of their stick and catch another's in unison. Māori Mato emphasises collective fluidity as the aim is to hormonally keep the sticks standing upright.
Used as a warmup to stimulate the players' alertness and body coordination.
Extended family group
Aim is to bring more whānau to play football.
- Give each player a 1.5m stick.
- These sticks should have one flat end.
- To start, players stand in a circle and hold their stick with the flat end placed on the ground in front of them.
- The coach has the choice of shouting "Mauī" (left) or "Mātau" (right).
- When the coach shouts "Mauī", players let go of their stick and grab the neighbouring stick to the left of them.
- When the coach shouts "Mātau", players let go of their stick and grab the neighbouring stick to the right of them.
- If the stick a player is going for drops to the floor, that player is eliminated from the game.
- If a player goes the wrong way, they are also eliminated.
- Players can only grab the neighbouring stick in the direction specified by the coach.
- Keep going until there is one player left.
- Players should leave their stick balanced as straight as possible; avoid pushing it over when advancing to a neighbouring stick.
- The main coaching objective of this game is "he waka eke noa " – we're all in this together. After some practice, the group should be able to go through several rounds in unison, without any stick falling to the floor.
- 1.5m sticks are for adult players. Shorter sticks should be used for younger groups.
- Increase difficulty by increasing the distance between players in the circle.
- Another way of making the game harder is to reduce the time between Mauī/Mātau commands.
- Make the game easier by reducing distance between players and increasing time between calls.