19 Jan 2018

Football match a trans-Tasman meeting of cultures

6:25 pm on 19 January 2018

Māori and Aboriginal football teams will clash for the first time this weekend in a meeting of indigenous cultures and sporting talent.

The Māori Football Te Ikaroa team play the Australian First Nations Mariya team at the weekend.

The Māori Football Te Ikaroa team play the Australian First Nations Mariya team at the weekend. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

The inaugural Trans Tasman Football Series will see the Māori Football Te Ikaroa team take on the Australian First Nations Mariya team this Saturday in Auckland.

Keifer Dotti plays for the men's team and comes from the Dunghutti and Gumbarnggir nations in New South Wales.

The 23-year-old is studying to be a primary school teacher and said his best football days were behind him, but he wanted to help his younger team mates overcome the struggle he faced as an indigenous player pushing for higher honours in Australia.

"When it comes to soccer there's probably one percent or less of aboriginals playing soccer. I only know two or three playing in the A-League," he said.

"It's very hard for us to get identified for the talents we have."

The numbers of indigenous football players taking up the sport in Australia is growing, with about 6000 registered players.

And for the past two years an indigenous football competition has been held.

Tenaya Davis plays for the women's side with her whanau travelling from the Dharug nation in New South Wales to support her.

She said this weekend's match was a special occasion.

"I guess pride to represent our culture and represent our people back home but also for the Māori people - it's also good to come here and experience the Māori culture too."

Tenaya Davis' dad, Richard, is the team's assistant coach.

He said he grew up playing football and knows the immense sporting talent of aboriginal and Māori.

"Anytime they get a ball in their hands or around their feet - they just want to kick and chase and have a good time - you know you can't take that away from indigenous people."

Micheal Hugo, head coach of the men's side, said the trip to New Zealand was proving valuable on and off the field with the sharing of cultures.

But come Saturday, he said his team's focus would be on taking two wins against their Kiwi rivals.

He said if they could not pull it off, he might get stick from former All Whites player and friend, Leo Bertos.

The test kicks off at midday on Saturday at McLennan Park in Papakura.