By Rupert Pye

Let them all dance something traditional

The enraged outbursts at Spain and Holland team members spontaneously and in high spirited fashion trying to perform the Haka ahead of the Women’s World Cup being co-hosted in New Zealand, has left me bemused. 

It’s also left me wondering where New Zealand’s sense of humour has gone. In the past, I have suggested if the Haka is allowed, then to be fair and not discriminate, that at World Cup tournaments or test matches, why not invite and allow 

  • Scotland to do the Highland Fling 
  • England the Morris Dance 
  • France the Can-can
  • Wales the Folk Dance
  • Ireland the Step dance
  • Australia the Bush Dance

Newcomers to test match rugby Argentina could do the Tango. Another rugby test newcomer Japan could do their traditional dance-drama, the Kabuki.
It would be a great spectacle. It would also compensate for the frustrations of spectators at the illogical rugby rules foisted on the game by the “wise” rugby heads, such as blatant obstruction by brutish forwards driving ahead of their teammate holding the ball or the dangerous, ludicrous allowing of players around mauls to tackle the man without the ball?

Having a bit of fun
But I digress. So why have some Māori become so upset and precious about the Spanish women’s football team accused of doing a mock haka? Were the Spanish mocking? I doubt it.More probably they were just having fun.

The often quoted figure Oscar Wilde once said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” More likely, the Spaniards and Dutch were just having a bit of fun.  Really that’s all it was. It should have been seen as just that and greeted with a smile or laughter.

Instead the fuming reactionary outbursts at Spain’s and Holland’s sense of humour with their parodies of the Haka, has exposed New Zealand’s lack of humour. More concerning is that New Zealanders are in danger of becoming too precious and pretentious.

Needed – a Billy T James style parody
I suspect master comedian the late Billy T. James would have had a field day over the angry antics and more particularly the reaction. Yesteryear the Howard Morrison quartet might have turned the dances by the Dutch and Spanish footballers into a song. Remember the Howard Morrison Quartet and their hit song “My Old Man’s an All Black”? Lyric lines like “There’s no Horis in that scrum”?

Parodies are invariably funny. If the All Blacks in a tour of Scotland did a parody on the Highland Fling or in England, on the Morris Dance, would the Scots and English respectively have taken deep seated serious offence and angrily demanded an apology? I doubt it — instead I’m sure they would have chortled.

Chucking off at the Irish
Look at the jokes and wisecracks by comedians about the Irish? The Irish, bless their souls, just laugh. They can laugh at themselves. They’re not hypersensitive or so terribly touchy. Sometimes they have the last laugh such as on 9 July, 2022 when the Irish rugby team scored their first victory against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil – their fourth win over New Zealand.

That win on New Zealand soil was despite the haka performed before the game by the All Blacks. But what if the Irish had insisted they be allowed to perform their country’s Step dance?

Iwi fury about the Spanish women’s haka

But here in New Zealand, the Rangitane iwi were furious at the Spanish women’s football team. A Rangitane spokesperson was quoted as saying FIFA as an organisation needed to step up when it came to the recognition of indigenous peoples.

But what if the Spanish wanted to perform the Flamenco before their games. What if New Zealand had performed a parody on the Flamenco?

I suspect the Spaniards would have laughed and taken it in good humour. As it was the Spanish team opted — or were coerced — to apologise.

“We have only been in Aotearoa, New Zealand for a few days and we still have a lot to learn about your culture,” Captain Ivana Andres told elders and members of the local Rangitane O Manawatu iwi tribe. She asked for forgiveness and gave the tribal elders a Spanish shirt that said Papaioea, the Maori name for Palmerston North.

Get a life
Underlying all of the fuss and “much ado about nothing” was the question, has New Zealand as a nation, lost it sense of humour? Billy T James and Howard Morrison looking down would probably with furrowed brows be saying “Yes, c’mon Kiwis, get a life.”