McDonald's adopts obscure Maori ball game

By Renee Jones

An obscure Maori ball game has been adopted by global fast-food chain McDonald's and will be taught in 31,000 American schools as part of their physical education curriculum.

McDonald's created the programme Passport to Play to teach 15 ethnic games to seven million primary school children in the United States. Ki-o-rahi was chosen to represent New Zealand.

Henry Anderson, Sport Northland kaiwhakahaere, or Maori sport co-ordinator, said the game resembled Aussie rules.

It is played on a circular field divided into zones. Two teams of seven players score points by touching the pou (boundary markers) and hitting a central tupu (target).

The game is not widely known but is played in Northland and scattered locations throughout the country. Rules differ in other parts of the country.

Mr Anderson said ki-o-rahi had been handed down over the centuries. But Maori language commissioner Patu Hohepa said he had found no evidence of the game.

"We cannot track it in the traditional Maori world ... At this present time it is a mystery."

Dr Hohepa did not want to comment on the sport being taught as a traditional Maori game until more research was completed, but said it sounded "fabulously exciting".

Ki-o-rahi could be pre-European and may have fallen into decline to be later revived during a resurgence of Maori activities from the Maori King Movement in the 1970s.

Kerikeri High School physical education teacher Hako Brown said he was taught ki-o-rahi on his marae in south Waikato in the late 1970s.

"We started playing with the older guys. They said, 'Okay, we want to show you something'. There was a lot of revival stuff happening then and we felt good about doing Maori things.

"Ki-o-rahi is an indigenous game imbued with tikanga Maori with a very long history ... Going by my whanau history, the people I have spoken to and the marae I have visited, it was of a pre-European nature."

The chairman of Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi, Raniera Tau, said he was pleased there was international interest in Maori culture. But he did not think the fast-food giant was the ideal company to endorse the culture. "McDonald's is one of the worst things for our people in terms of its food."

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