NZ sport groups' Asia visits enriched with cultural opportunities

Sixteen New Zealand sport groups will include cultural activities to their itineraries when they visit Asia this year thanks to funding from the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The funding allows sports teams to experience cultural activities such as visiting a shrine, attending a performance or partaking in a homestay. The funding is for groups already travelling to Asia for sports.

“These grants provide a unique opportunity for New Zealanders to go beyond the sportsfield, learn about the host country and forge meaningful connections with local people,” says Kirsty Sharp, programme manager (Sport) at the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono.

“By experiencing Asian culture firsthand, participants gain a richer understanding of the region, which will benefit them and their communities," she says.

"We hope that the experiences they have in Asia will ignite an interest in the athletes that leads on to further exploration of the of culture of the country they visit." 

Launched in 2018, the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s sports programme provides a range of initiatives to help New Zealanders grow their understanding of Asia through the language of sport, and for New Zealand sports sector to experience and thrive in Asia.

The funding support is divided into two categories:

Community Sport Fund: Supports individuals travelling to Asia to participate, train, officiate, or upskill in their chosen sport.

Student Sport Fund: Provides funding for Secondary (aged over 14 years) and University/Tertiary athletes and teams travelling to Asia with a focus on sports participation.

The Foundation received a strong response from across Aotearoa, with applications submitted from locations such Taranaki, Southland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Helensville and Blenheim, alongside major cities such as Auckland and Wellington.

This reflects the growing interest in Asia among New Zealanders nationwide.

The importance of cultural experience in sport is highlighted in the Foundation's recent research report, The Rising Impact of Asia on New Zealand Sport. The report finds that 89 percent of survey respondents view their sports-related visits to Asia as a positive experience, with key highlights being meeting locals, exploring new places and trying local food.

For more information, contact:    
Graeme Acton
Manager, Asia Media Centre     

The latest round of community and school sport funding has been awarded to the following teams and groups:

Student Sport Funding

Hutt International Boys (Upper Hutt): Development tour to Japan for 32 U18 players features competitive matches, cultural experiences (guided tours, baseball game) and homestays.

Kaipara College (Helensville): On their first international trip, both the boys' and girls' rugby teams (39 students, ten staff) will experience Japanese culture (cuisine, sumo wrestling, taiko drumming, bullet train) alongside matches.

Southland Boys' High (Invercargill): 2023 Moascar Cup champions head to the Sanix Cup (Fukuoka) with 25 players and 5 staff. They'll also experience cultural exchange in Kumagaya (Invercargill's sister city).

Manukura (Palmerston North): 2023 Condors Sevens rugby champions (12 players, three staff) travel to Japan for the Sanix Cup (Fukuoka) and cultural adventures in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto (including a school exchange).

Wainuiomata High School (Lower Hutt): Eight students and two staff embark on a cultural exchange to Japan, deepening their understanding of language, values and traditions. They'll share kapa haka while exploring Tokyo and adventuring in Hokkaido.

Opunake High School (Taranaki): 41 students (rugby and basketball) and ten staff head to Japan for cultural exchange focusing on school and home stays, tours in Tokyo and Nagoya.

Westlake Boys High (Auckland): 2023 National Football Champions (18 players, four staff) head to the International School Sport Federation (ISF) World Cup (Dalian) with a sightseeing trip to Beijing.

Westlake Girls High (Auckland): 2023 National Basketball Champions (12 players, six staff) compete in the ISF World Cup Macau, China and explore Macau's history with guided tours and a calligraphy class.

University and Tertiary Sport New Zealand: The selected men's and women's 3x3 basketball teams will be travelling to Xiamen, China, to compete in the International Federation for University Sport (FISU) 3x3 World Cup, involving cultural immersion activities.

Similarly, selected men's and women's Futsal teams will head to Shanghai, China, for the FISU Futsal World Cup, with cultural immersion activities planned during their trip.

Community Sport Funding

Kaha Basketball Academy (Blenheim): This group aims to support youth development through basketball. They're taking 24 players and seven staff to Japan for cultural experiences alongside basketball activities.

New Zealand Speed Climbing Team: Following speed climbing's Olympic debut, this team is travelling to China for a World Cup competition. The three-person team (two athletes, one support staff) will also experience Chinese culture with a guided tour.

Hawkes Bay Indoor Cricket Team- (Hawkes Bay): This team qualified for the Men's World Indoor Cricket Championships in Sri Lanka. The 18-person group (ten athletes, six support staff, two officials) will participate in cultural excursions alongside the competition.

Massey Rugby Club (West Auckland): For 34 years, Massey Rugby Club has partnered with Japanese club Kasuga for cultural exchange. This year, 100 junior players (under 14) and 20 youth players will travel to Japan for a rugby experience and cultural tours (Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Toyota factory museum). The Foundation will support the youth players.

Swimming New Zealand: Singapore will be the team's final competition before the 2024 Paralympics. The 11-person group (seven athletes, four support staff) will participate in a cultural tour (Big Bus Singapore) alongside the competition.

Rangataua o Aotearoa (Gisborne): This group uses indigenous martial arts and the environment for educational, cultural and sporting development. Nine athletes, four coaches and two officials will travel to Thailand for Muay Thai training, competition (IFMA World Championships) and cultural experiences (visit to Big Buddha, Wat Chalong).