Toa Samoa vs Kiwis: ‘Even after the game...still 685 to the world’
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
There was something abuzz in the atmosphere at Eden Park last night, where a united crowd of red and blue had emerged ahead of the Toa Samoa and Kiwis rugby league clash.
A wave of red and blue dominated the stadium, as the Samoan flag was waved proudly in the air. But there was also a mixture of black, as Kiwi fans turned up, and even the Tino Rangatira flag made an appearance.
The opening haka from both teams saw players confront each other with staunch eye contact and big chests puffed out respectfully.
The same energy was replicated in the crowd with a bit of friendly banter - despite some Toa fans booing the haka, which caught me off guard.
Sitting in the crowd, it’s hard to describe the immense pride in the Samoan culture and their loyalty to the boys in blue. Every try scored by the Kiwis did nothing to dampen the volume of the singing or the shouts of “cheehoo” throughout the crowd.
High spirits remained throughout the night regardless of the climbing score against the Toa boys.
The stadium wasn’t sold out but it felt full with echoes of laughter, singing, supporters cheering, and the sideline coaching comments. It was definitely a family-friendly environment as the seats were filled with children and parents and all ages.
The bottom of the seats became makeshift drums banged to the beat of a chant that had started among the Samoan fans: “De-fence” in the hope it would uplift Toa Samoa against the Kiwi line of attack.
There were some moments of frustration in the second half when the Kiwis dominated and looked to be having fun with scoring try after try.
When Toa Samoa fans thought they had scored a try, it was as if an electric current was set off, as the crowd roared in cheer.
Alas, heartbreak as the “no try” sign showed up - setting off their disapproval with loud “boos” across the masses.
The final score - 50-0 to the Kiwis - was not enough to silence the Toa Samoa fan, nor did it in any way reflect the pride bursting throughout the stadium.
‘Even after the game...still 685 to the world’
Well-known Samoan hymns - including Ua Fa’afetai - were sung and the nation’s flag held up high with pride. RSA Band’s Taute was also played on the speakers and both songs had the crowd singing along.
So much pride and mana was felt during the match as fans continued standing and waving their flags even after the final whistle was blown. The feeling of unity was ignited when it came to the traditional Samoan song and dance.
Even as people started leaving, Toa Samoa fans lingered and carried on with their support continuously waving their flags. Echoes of Samoan music and songs being sung could still be heard as the crowd dispersed.
Toa Samoa may have lost on the field to the Kiwis but off the field, it was evident how proud their fans were and how rich their culture is when it comes to supporting their sons and brothers on the field.
Even after the game, the crowd of Samoans were still smiling, still laughing, still cheering, still proud, still 685 to the world and still backing our boys in blue.
Hero image: Sisters Mary and Theresa Afemata at the Toa Samoa and Kiwis match at Eden Park last night. Photo / Mary Afemata