The New Zealand White Sox and Chinese Taipei women’s softball teams have received official warnings after a “cultural misunderstanding” over the haka at the world championships in Japan.
Softball New Zealand chief executive Tony Giles confirmed to Stuff that warnings had been issued by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) after the incident in the Chiba prefecture on Friday night.
After the White Sox performed their traditional pre-match haka, the Chinese Taipei team flung handfuls of salt on the softball diamond at Akitsu Stadium in Narashino City.
That prompted the White Sox to launch another haka as they advanced through the pitching circle area before stopping near the opposition dugout where the Taiwanese team had regrouped.
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Some of the Kiwis looked bewildered and angry at the Chinese Taipei players’ salt throwing antics, including pitcher Courtney Gettins, who was in the frontline of the second haka, and later posted on Facebook: :”Fire me up!!!! Please don’t throw no dirt at these kiwis or you’ll get this!!”
Chinese Taipei (ranked fifth in the world) beat New Zealand (ranked 11th) 7-4 after racing out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Giles said from Chiba on Saturday that WBSC had warned both teams, “the White Sox for crossing the centreline and Chinese Taipei for their response”.
He said the WBSC had also issued a communique to all teams, explaining the haka protocols.
The email, issued by WBSC technical director Kevin Quinn said: “Just to clarify, in all games the New Zealand team play at this 2018 Women’s Softball World Cup the New Zealand Team will be performing the Haka before the game.
“The Haka is a long lasting custom of New Zealand sports teams. It is a challenge to their opponents but also a show of respect for the ability of the opponent they are facing.
“In other instances, the Haka is done to show respect for for an individual or team that the New Zealand team have a great deal of respect for. It is our hope that in all games the opponents of the New Zealand Team will respect the Haka performed for them and that the New Zealand Team will treat their opponents with the utmost of respect.
“I apologize to anyone who was unclear as to whether or not the Haka was going to be performed by the New Zealand team in their games.”
White Sox captain Ellie Cooper dropped to her knee at the head of the haka’s second wave.
Cooper – Wellington born but United States raised – wrote about the importance of the haka in her pre-tournament blog on Flosoftball.com.
“In New Zealand, our culture is built upon creating a tight family as you live your life, respect for our ancestors and heritage, and taking great pride in where we come from. Another big part of representing New Zealand is reflecting our Maori culture through the performance of the Haka.
“The Haka was traditionally used as a war dance or challenge on the battlefield, as well as when groups come together. Today, in the National programs such as ours, the Haka is performed prior to international matches as we prepare to take on the battle against our opponents.
“Our White Sox Haka represents pride, strength, and a sacred representation of our ancestors and our people. Through the Haka we learn about the Maori language and our cultural heritage. We Haka as a unified sisterhood of Aotearoa [New Zealand] with a great respect for the opponent we are about to face on our battlefield. It is important to us because it unifies our team, gives us strength, and shows our opponents that we are here for a purpose.”
It is not known why the Chinese Taipei players chose to scatter salt on the diamond.
But, in some cultures, casting salt is seen as a way of warding off bad luck.
It is commonly seen at sumo wrestling matches in Japan.