NEW Zealand made it clear it isn't holding any grudge against Filipino basketball fans who booed while the Tall Blacks performed the haka before their match against Gilas Pilipinas.
Tall Blacks team manager Andrew Dewhurst said he nonetheless hopes the incident will serve as an eye-opener for fans on what the traditional war dance truly means to their country and its Maori heritage.
In a bid to calm the backlash over Wednesday's incident, Dewhurst said it's understandable that some of the Filipino fans have no idea about the significance of the war dance performed by New Zealand's sports teams, notably its world champion All Blacks in rugby union.
“The team bears no ill will toward fans who might not understand the significance of the haka and realizes that we are in a foreign country where people may not appreciate what it means,” said Dewhurst in an e-mail to SPIN.ph.
“However, it is hoped that fans in the Philippines and around the world appreciate it for what it is, a challenge to the opposition borne of our Maori culture and ancestry.”
The booing incident of the Haka dance by some Filipino basketball fans came under criticism, and was even picked up by New Zealand news outlets including the New Zealand Herald Tribune.
In the same e-mail, Dewhurst related a brief background of the haka, which SPIN.ph is posting in its entirety to inform the readers of its history and why the New Zealand teams do it. Here's the full transcript:
“‘Tu Kaha O Pango’ is a haka written specifically for and performed by the Tall Blacks. It calls upon the Tall Blacks to honour ‘the past, the present and the future’ and is a rallying cry for the team before going into battle. It is a challenge for the opposition, who traditionally would face the haka from the other side of the court – however that is up to the opposing team to decide how they will react to the haka.
“This is a reflection of who we are as a team and who we are as a people from New Zealand. It is not ‘entertainment’ as such for the fans, but something that we as players and staff hold up as being an important part of our culture and values in the team. It is something that honours our past players, our present players and those who will wear the black singlet in the future.
“It is over to the crowd to react as they wish on the night, but the boys are not doing it for them, it is very much for themselves.”
On the other hand, Dewhurst lauded Gilas Pilipinas squad for being 'hugely respectful' when the haka was performed before the game, crediting head coach Tab Baldwin, an American-New Zealander and a former head coach of the Tall Blacks, for how the team acted.
Dewhurst also noted the France team, which they faced on Thursday, also had the same response as Gilas.
“We must note that the Philippines team was hugely respectful of the haka (as were the French), perhaps helped by Coach Baldwin's understanding of what it is all about and the importance to New Zealanders,” said Dewhurst.
Dewhurst ended the e-mail by thanking those Filipino fans who showed their support to the Tall Blacks following the incident.
“We have also seen a great deal of understanding and support online from the Filipino fans, all of whom are appreciative of the haka and what it means,” said Dewhurst.