Taking the haka to American football games

By Jon Stokes

The All Blacks' haka is resounding around US football stadiums.

Utah's Brigham Young University Cougars, led by the team's sole Maori, Bryce Mahuika, have adopted their version of the haka Ka mate, Ka mate to inspire players and fans.

The American-born Mahuika, a wide receiver and kick returner for the Cougars, led the haka in the opening game of the season, against Boston College, in front of 60,000 fans. The team were barred from eyeballing the opposing side by officials concerned that the high-adrenalin show could lead to a pre-match punch-up.

Mahuika said he was honoured to share his culture with American fans and overwhelmed by their response.

"The crowd went crazy. I had people coming up to me asking why we had not done it before."

The news was welcomed by his grand-uncle Api Mahuika, chairman of the East Coast iwi Ngati Porou.

"It is a great opportunity for him to learn and share his culture."

Speaking from his home in Utah, Bryce Mahuika said the haka was inspired by his father, Michael, who despite leaving New Zealand for America in the 1970s remained proud of his homeland and culture.

"My dad passed away a couple of months ago. He taught us [six children] the haka and our culture."

When his father died, he, his brother and other whanau performed a haka at the graveside, which rekindled his appreciation for his heritage.

When the football squad's coach asked for ideas on strengthening team motivation, Mahuika suggested the haka. "The coach was all for it."

Mahuika's mother Nancy said her late husband would have been proud.

Mahuika said he was confident the haka would become a tradition for Brigham Young University.

The Cougars lost to Boston College 20-3, but downed Eastern Illinois 45-10 last Saturday.

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