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People & Values

Manaakitanga on display: FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™

Aotearoa New Zealand is a country known for its welcoming ways. As the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 inches closer, New Zealanders everywhere are busy in preparation - making sure the arriving teams, their support crews, and football fans from around the world - are provided for and made to feel welcome. The spirit of manaakitanga - hospitality, kindness, generosity - runs through it all…

As the biggest women’s sporting event in the world, with a global broadcast reach of more than 1.2 billion viewers - and 30,000 international manuhiri (visitors or guests) expected - co-hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ provides an incredible opportunity to showcase Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique culture to the world.  

Manaakitanga: More than hospitality


New Zealanders are eagerly preparing to play host to the international teams, support crews and fans, and to make them feel as welcome as possible ahead of the July 20 kick off.

Tauranga, for example, has promised to provide a ‘home away from home’ for the visiting Netherlands team, the ‘Orange Lionesses’, and to support them in their World Cup bid. Hamiltonians are delighted to be hosting Zambia’s ‘Copper Queens’ women’s football team and their crew, with mayor Paula Southgate saying that the city is committed to making the visitors “feel welcome, showing warmth and hospitality (manaakitanga)”. Palmerston North is turning on the charm too. The city’s Sport Institute at Massey University has been selected as the training base for the Spanish women’s team and is clearly excited about the team’s imminent arrival.

This warm and welcoming approach to visitors is no accident.


In Aotearoa New Zealand, the traditional Māori concept of Manaakitanga (loosely defined as showing respect, hospitality, or care for others) speaks to the way we respond to the needs of others, especially as a host - whether welcoming others on a marae, in our homes, or welcoming overseas visitors to our country.


A powerful and layered concept, the term Manaakitanga derives from ‘‘mana’ (authority, power or prestige) and ‘aki’(to uphold or support).


Values such as manaakitanga, along with whanaungatanga (connection or kinship between people) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection for the sky, the sea, and the land), are an integral part of New Zealand's identity.


These principles are embedded in its laws, policies, and social norms, and many New Zealanders - regardless of ethnicity - feel deeply connected to the nation’s indigenous traditions and values.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ Pōwhiri

The principles of manaakitanga were well on display when The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 delegation got to experience a real New Zealand pōwhiri (traditional welcoming ceremony) first hand last October.


A step-by-step process of removing the tapu (sacredness) of visitors and making them one the tangata whenua (people of the land), the pōwhiri is an important cultural tradition for New Zealanders, involving speeches, songs, and ending in a hongi (a traditional Māori greeting in which noses are pressed together).


Held at Karanga Plaza in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, the ceremony was led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, the indigenous Māori iwi (tribe) of Central Auckland.


Of the 500 guests, the manuhiri included FIFA Council members and representatives from the competing teams involved in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 finals draw and attended by FIFA representatives - including FIFA President Giovanni Infantino - and members from 29 teams from all over the world.


The sound of the taonga pūoro (musical instrument) signalled to the assembled guests that the pōwhiri was beginning.


First up, a group of traditionally dressed Māori warriors appear and perform the wero - the often-spectacular ceremonial challenge made by armed Māori warriors, designed to symbolically test the intentions of manuhiri.


A warrior approaches the visitors, wielding weapons but also offering a token of peace - a rākau whakaara (warning baton) placed on the ground in front of a designated recipient - in this case, FIFA President Gianni Infantino.


To not uplift the offering signals the visitors do not come in peace. Luckily, the FIFA official understands the protocol and picks up the baton, signalling that the visitors’ intentions are good, and the pōwhiri is peacefully underway.


The wailing call of welcome, known as karanga, comes next, performed by the women of the host tribe. The call welcomes the visitors, addresses the reason for the gathering, and pays tribute to the deceased.


A Haka Pōwhiri (dance/chant of welcome) follows the karanga. A group from the Tangata Whenua sing and perform the actions, and manihuri step forward in response to the welcome.


Formal speeches begin. Oratory is a valuable skill in Māori culture, and speeches, or whaikōrero, are an important element of a pōwhiri. The host tribe delivers a speech acknowledging the visitors' arrival, highlighting links between the two groups, and stating the kaupapa (purpose) of the occasion.


“It is our privilege to welcome FIFA President Gianni Infantino together with representatives of global football to our home,” said Ngarimu Blair, Deputy Chair of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust.


“We welcome you to our home that carries the memories of our ancestors, and we welcome you upon these tribal lands.”


The FIFA president then responded. Beginning his speech in te reo, Infantino called for a blessing on the occasion and gives his thanks to Ngāti Whātua, and expressing his gratitude (in English) for “for such a beautiful welcome to your most precious land, Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud”.


“The FIFA Women’s World Cup will give inspiration to youngsters as it plants a seed of ambition, and this is the unique power of football, and it will be our legacy,” the FIFA President added before concluding in te reo, “therefore, to all here, greetings.”


A Waiata (song) follows each speech, embellishing and supporting the points made, before the FIFA president offers a koha (gift), placed ceremonially on the ground. As the gift is uplifted by tangata whenua and the traditional greeting is completed by a traditional hongi, a Māori greeting used at meetings and ceremonies in which two people press their noses and foreheads together.


With the majority of the ceremony out of the way, kai (food) is shared, creating an even greater bond between visitor and host.


Aotearoa New Zealand is proud of its welcoming, tolerant society, and its vibrant and unique culture and heritage. As we share our unique customs, traditions, and values with the world, we foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other, and create long-lasting bonds with those we meet.


Handed down from our ancestors, manaakitanga helps support those relationships to grow and flourish.

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