Samoan flags fluttered across south Auckland on Sunday morning as Toa Samoa defeated England in the Rugby League World Cup semifinal.
University of Auckland academic Caleb Marsters says the jubilation of Pasifika youth in the aftermath of the match illustrates something about the power of sport.
“Sport, you can see it as just a hobby, but it actually is really powerful, especially for a lot of our Pacific and other minority communities where they might not be represented in the most positive light in other spaces,” he said.
“But sport is a space where we can be celebrated and really see our potential to succeed.”
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Marsters, a south Auckland local, stayed up to watch the semifinal and joined the celebrations afterwards.
“I didn’t really think they’d win, I was pretty surprised and then all the fireworks started going off. It was a cool historic moment,” he said.
“It was pretty special just seeing all my friends and that out celebrating, it was pretty cool.”
Marsters is of Cook Islands heritage and is an academic in Pacific studies at the University of Auckland.
He said sport provides a place for Pasifika to connect with their culture, especially the youth.
“The big thing about sports, especially for our Pacific communities in Aotearoa, Australia and overseas, it’s a space where we get to be really proud of our islands,” he said.
“For a lot of our young ones who might not be as connected with the culture, to see them so proud and expressing that pride is pretty cool.”
Marsters said even a generation ago it was not common to see Pasifika proudly supporting their culture on the streets.
“To be so open and proud of your cultural identity, and to represent that on the streets, is something that has not always been the norm,” he said.
“It’s cool to see and, like I said, hopefully just keep that momentum going outside of the sporting realms as well, seeing our young people be proud to be Pacific wherever they are.”
Toa Samoa will face Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final on Sunday at 5am.
“That’s probably the biggest part that I see for sports is just the huge influence it can have on inspiring our communities,” Masters said.
“Most of the Toa Samoa boys were Australian or New Zealand-born, that’s just another example where you can keep your culture strong even if you’re overseas.
“We’re just proud to see one of the Pacific nations not just competing but actually beating those big nations that usually waste us,” he said.