Regional | Football

First Indigenous Football Festival match came down to the wire

The first indigenous football festival took place on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday, with two hard-fought games between both sides.

First to kick off the festival were the women, and Women’s Mauri team captain Ella Golding said the game was more than just football.

“I felt the game went really well. We got off to quite a good start, and then went through a little bit of a slow patch. But then we talked at half-time about our culture and the reason we’re here, and then it started to pick up again. I think the girls did really well,” she said.

Although they didn't win, she is optimistic about the remaining matches of the tour.

“I had fun and there’s three more games to go, so we’ve still got time,” Golding said.

The Mauri team squared up against the Koalas at the Wanderers Football Club over the weekend, and for Golding it was a unique experience playing alongside fellow Māori and having the dynamic of having indigenous cultures standing above all others.

Nō hea tō mana?

“We don’t get to play with Māori but we’re playing just for Māori, and it’s really special, and something we hold in our hearts with a lot of pride and mana,” she said.

The wahine Mauri team fell short of the Koalas, losing 3-1, but it was a battle fought by both sides from start to the final whistle. But at the half, the Māori women's coach had some words of encouragement for her side.

Coach Taelor Pickering Parker repeated a phrase within the team’s haka: ‘Nō hea tō mana.’ It asks: Where does your power come from? - ‘he mana nō tuawhakarere’ - a power that derives from ancient times. Pickering Parker said she saw this as an opportunity to instil a sense of pride for why they were playing, and what they were playing for.

“It’s something that ties us all together, something we all know, we all relate to, and it’s in their haka - that’s why I thought it was really important,” Pickering Parker said.

In the men's game, the points were even the whole way through, with Māori Football Aotearoa taking a fast lead 1-0 in the first five minutes, but ultimately ending in a draw 2 to 2.  This left a penalty shootout to decide the game's winner, which resulted in Māori Football Aotearoa's first win in the senior men’s division.