Sport Rugby

Sunday 20 August 2017

Precious Haka-fest really starting to get on my nerves

KA MATE! KA MATE! KA ORA! KA ORA! IT is death, it is death, it is life, it is life.

It is also incredibly self-indulgent and increasingly monotonous.

Less than two weeks into the World Cup adventure and we've already hit Haka saturation point - and then been drenched some more. While this subject is a well-worn one, it needs to be raised again because the World Cup has showcased the New Zealand obsession with this Maori war dance like never before.

With 20 rugby teams to be welcomed and numerous schools and heritage centres to be visited by the various squads, there have been more Hakas than you could shake a stick at.

The latest phenomenon is the 'flash mob' Haka and these have been taking place all week around Auckland and can be easily viewed on YouTube (although once is probably enough).

Unlike yobbish English tourists travelling to the Algarve and complaining loudly about not being able to get decent egg and chips and the fact that everyone speaks 'foreign,' most of us believe that when you travel abroad, it is both polite and proper to respect the local culture.

The Maori people have a long and proud history with a powerful sense of identity, which is fair enough, and being exposed to their traditional ways is both interesting and entertaining -- the first couple of times.

However, appreciation swiftly turns to apathy when the same routine is rammed down your throat time and again.

Similar to people who insist on giving you the 'house tour' or producing pictures of their holidays or children, it may be fascinating for those directly involved, but I couldn't give a fiddler's.

But what about the Irish? Doesn't our 'craic' addiction mean being dosed with diddley-eye wherever you turn in the land of saints and scholars? It most certainly does, and that would give you a pain in the hoop as well.

However, the most irritating aspect to the Haka is not mere repetition, it is the preciousness that accompanies it. You dare not speak out against the Haka or attempt a response because ... well ... it's not about you.

The daily rugby supplement 'Rugby Heaven' that arrives as an insert with most of the newspapers over here yesterday carried a list of 'Five famous examples of why it doesn't always pay to challenge the challenge'.

These included Richard Cockerill going nose-to-nose with Norm Hewitt in 1997 (which in different circumstances constitutes a friendly greeting. Very confusing), Wales silent stare in 2008, the Wallabies turning their backs in 1996 and Willie Anderson's legendary lean-and-heave in 1989.

There was also the 2006 controversy in Cardiff when Wales wanted the Haka performed before they sang Land Of Their Fathers -- which seemed like a perfectly reasonable request by the home team, but caused the Kiwis to throw out the rattle and do their dance moves in their dressing-room (with cameras present to keep the sponsors happy, of course).

On each occasion, the All Blacks won handily and this was sold as some sort of 'come-uppance' for their challengers, but in fact was merely a reflection of the fact that New Zealand are the world's premier rugby-playing nation.

The opening ceremony was, predictably, another Haka-fest and there is no sign of this New Zealand love-in ever fading -- certainly not over the next seven weeks.

The Haka. It is life for the Kiwis, it is death for those of us worn down by its ubiquity and, at this stage, it is taking the mickey.

Irish Independent

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