Photo credit: Photosport

Over 14,000 students in New Zealand are set to take part in Kōtuitui, a schools programme that uses the context of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to learn about culture and collective identity.

OFC board member and New Zealand Football president Dr Johanna Wood, NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell and Football Fern Claudia Bunge joined the Minister for Sport and Recreation Hon Grant Robertson, FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 COO Jane Patterson, Sport New Zealand CEO Raelene Castle, and the students of Wellington’s Tui Glen School to celebrate the programme.

OFC’s Player Development manager Phill Parker said that the programme is about “recognising the origins of the culture that feed into football.”

“We are aiming to draw from indigenous myths and legends that inspire the game, give them context and create a unique approach. Football coaching is a subjective thing, so we see this a unique way to tie together the things our kids are learning in the classroom to what they are doing outside.

“We want to create long term systemic awareness using regional stories. It’s a massive opportunity if it’s in schools for long time, if an eight-year-old picks it up now, then by the time they leave school they will have a different perception of the world. It becomes a more intrinsic desire to learn about things and become more aware”

Kōtuitui is for primary and intermediate school students and has two parts: classroom learning activities, and football/futsal experiences.

For the football or futsal experiences, local football clubs or federations will provide ākonga (students) with a six-week programme, which includes bicultural and multicultural football/futsal games that complement the classroom learning. Connecting past and present etc.

The classroom learning activities are linked to the Te Ao Tangata Social Sciences (including Aotearoa New Zealand Histories) curriculum by using the FIFA Women’s World Cup as the context for students to learn about New Zealand’s bicultural and multicultural societies, and how to connect with one another. They will also learn about how hosting major events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup can help to shape New Zealand’s culture and collective identity, and classroom learning culminates in the ākonga putting their learning into practice by organising a World Cup.

Parker says the programme is something other OFC Member Associations can adapt to benefit children in their areas.

“We want to guide them down this track…to indigenise their space and have their myths and legends provide the platform for what they are doing. In Fiji, they are already doing it. In the next 12 months, we might find we have five or six more MAs that have programmes unique to their environment.”

NZF’s goal with Kōtuitui is for football to be the most inclusive sport in New Zealand.

“And for our members to have enjoyable experiences that will foster a lifelong love of the beautiful game,” says Dr Wood.

The programme will have a significant impact in the schools space, says Shane Verma, New Zealand Football Community Pathways Manager and Kōtuitui project lead.

“Where Kōtuitui is particularly special is that it harnesses how communities express their culture and identities through football and futsal. The programme provides tamariki and ranagtahi with new ways to get physically active while learning about and connecting with their communities,” he says.

“It’s also a great way to strengthen communities and connections between schools and their local football clubs.”

The connections developed through the Kōtuitui programme will be one of the legacies of co-hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup, says Paula Hansen, New Zealand Football General Manager of WWC, Legacy and Inclusion at New Zealand Football.

“It is a great example of how our communities can connect through football and futsal, and celebrate their cultures.

“We’re looking forward to seeing more rangatahi and tamariki connecting with each other and learning about themselves and their communities through Kōtuitui’s in-classroom activities as well as the bicultural and multicultural games.”