On Monday, a groundbreaking local welcoming ceremony marked the official start of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in Auckland.
In an historic first for football in Oceania, all teams, football officials and dignitaries were welcomed onto Ngahue Reserve with a powerful traditional maori powhiri.
The colorful parade of teams in their uniforms, and cultural costumes portrayed the true meaning of the powhiri which is the gradual process of the Tangata Whenua, people of the land, and the Manuwhiri , the visitors, coming together as one. This message was emphasised by Kaumatua Jimmy Pene, from Ruapotaka Marae in Glen Innes during his opening address.
The proceedings commenced with a speech made by Tonga head coach Christian Koaleti on behalf of the six teams competing at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship. Thanking the sponsors and organisers, Koaleti says the sport of football and positive cooperation will help each country to be proud of their roots, and their flags to fly high.
“This Championship will provide life-changing opportunities, valuable experience and also necessary practice for all the players taking part.”
OFC Competition Director Chris Kemp addressed the gathering on behalf of the Confederation and declared the championship officially open.
This edition will see six women’s football teams battling it out to win the coveted OFC U-19’s Women’s Championship. The six teams are New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Fiji.
The first matches take place tomorrow, Tuesday 11 July, with New Zealand opening the tournament at 10am against Papua New Guinea. Tonga plays Fiji at 12:30pm followed by New Caledonia and Samoa at 3pm.