Kiwi Winston Reid says hello with a hongi
The team were greeted by some loyal New Zealand fans as they exited the arrivals terminal at Auckland International Airport, before the travelling squad, manager Sam Allardyce and backroom staff where treated to a more traditional Kiwi welcome in the form of a Māori Powhiri beneath the Auckland Sky Tower, an iconic city landmark.
The customary Māori greeting proved to be emotional for one player in particular, with West Ham defender Winston Reid – who was born in Auckland – wiping away the tears.
The pōwhiri or pōhiri, is a ceremony of welcoming involving speeches, dancing, singing and hongi and is central part of Māori protocol. The pōwhiri itself signifies two groups coming together, negotiating the terms of their engagement and finishing with guests joining their hosts as one.
And although Reid – the only New Zealand player in the Premier League of Māori decent – was obviously feeling sentimental about arriving home, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce expressed his delight at coming to New Zealand for the first time, telling reporters he was looking forward to experiencing the best of what the country has to offer.
After the press conference, which included club captain Kevin Nolan, Winston Reid and striker Andy Carroll, the boys enjoyed for a late afternoon walk around Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.
The Football United Tour 2014 is a historic event in New Zealand sporting history.
The week-long tour will see West Ham take on New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix at Auckland fortress Eden Park on Wednesday night, before playing A-League side Sydney FC in a double header with Newcastle United, who take on the Phoenix in Wellington, New Zealand’s football-crazed capital, on Saturday June 26.
Newcastle will also take on Sydney FC in Dunedin, on the South Island on New Zealand on Tuesday.
It’s obvious All Whites captain Reid is keen to show the team, who play in the one of the most watched sports in the world, some local attractions in and around his hometown.
Auckland – named one of Lonely Planet’s top cities in the world to visit in 2014 – is New Zealand’s largest city. Often referred to as the ‘City of Sails’ due to the huge number boats moored in marinas and parked on trailers all over town, the city is the perfect base in which to start exploring the diverse country.
In just a few moments visitors can go from standing in the central city immersed in world-class designer shopping to being afloat on the Waitemata Harbour heading for an island escape, a dolphin encounter or fishing the plentiful waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Just 45 minutes from downtown are the rolling hills of wine country, hikes through native bush surrounded by bird life and surfing on the rugged West Coast – a plethora of adventures that are just waiting to be explored.
West Ham will be based in Auckland until Wednesday and are set to engage with Kiwi supporters via a selection of open training sessions at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium and Eden Park.