How is the Sport Culture in New Zealand?
Author: Ashley Munson
Sport is something that boasts incredible strength; it unites people from all walks of life, it stirs up emotions that range from tears of joy to tears of distress and generates a worldwide following like nothing else. England are associated with football – or soccer depending on your preference – India are synonymous with cricket and the United States with baseball, NFL and basketball. What does the landscape of sport look like in New Zealand?
The National Sport
Almost everyone, sports fan or not, will know what the haka is. The sight of the Rugby Union side lining up to perform the pre-match ritual that dates back to 1888, is something to behold but the team is much more than just the haka.
The All Blacks are regarded as the best Rugby Union side the world has ever seen. One player the Americans might know is former NFL wagering pick Paul Lasike. The athlete born in Auckland represented both the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears, before turning to rugby, pledging alliance to the US rugby union team. But in this sport, NZ is pretty much the one to beat.
They won the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and won back to back competitions in 2011 and 2015 making them the first team to ever successfully defend the trophy. A quite remarkable achievement to note is that the team have never ranked lower than third in the world.
The Women's Number One
The females of New Zealand favour netball when it comes to their sporting entertainment and it ranks second overall with youngsters – behind Rugby Union.
There is an argument to be had that the national netball team – the Silver Ferns – is more successful than the rugby side given they’ve lifted four World Cups in their time – the most recent in 2003 – but let’s not start that debate!
In the Olympics
New Zealand first went it alone at an Olympics in 1920 having competed with Australia on the earlier occasions and it was rower Darcy Hadfield who put his name into the history books as he became the first to win a medal (a bronze) for the country.
Since those days the nation have come a long way and have a total of 120 medals to their name. Despite neighbouring Australia having hosted the games twice (Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000) New Zealand are still waiting for that honour, will it ever happen? Let’s hope so.
Soccer Summary...Or is it Football
The sport that was created in England back in 1863 was always referred to as soccer but in 2007 the term was changed to football. It’s not a sport New Zealand are particularly renowned for, but the nation still has two World Cup appearances to their name.
1982 was the first showing for the All Whites (that’s right, the football team are nicknamed the All Whites) where they lost all three games. Their 2010 showing in South Africa was somewhat better though as they exited the tournament without tasting defeat – the only team to do so – albeit still a group stage elimination.
The Growing Trend
If football isn’t something Kiwis are particularly known for then it might surprise you to learn that the biggest growing sport in schools is futsal. A game most popular in Iberic countries – Portugal and Spain – plus Brazil, it is a small sided version of soccer played indoors.
Although the game is narrowly ranked outside the top 10 for participation the uptake has seen a 66% increase since 2014. The sport is not just a bit of fun though; it’s a recognised form of football by FIFA and there are plenty of nations who take part in international events and New Zealand are ranked at 68 in the world.
There you have it, a very brief overview of sport in New Zealand. If you get the chance to go and watch some live action, then take it; you won’t be disappointed with the quality on show regardless of your choice.