The Middle Earth It was not always seen as heaven on earth. The perfect place to live (enough to trigger an amazing real estate bubble) we could say, but among the green hills, head of cattle and liters of beer, as well as the home of rugby (and Lord of the ringsExperience moments of intense social anxiety.
It was 1981 (exactly forty years ago), a period of complete apartheid South Africa, Agreed by New Zealand … in an unpleasant way: On the occasion of the All Blacks’ South African tour, the national team of then-coach Jack Sullivan banned players of Maori origins. The controversy that followed was like pushing the New Zealand Rugby Union to abandon future matches with the Springboks, until 1970.
But the dart was thrown. That tour in 1960 prompted many New Zealanders to sign a petition (“No Maori, No Tour”). Approximately 150,000 people participated in it. From there the rumors spread and in 1969 HART, an anti-racism movement in New Zealand that opposed apartheid, was born. With numerous demonstrations, the movement succeeded in canceling the scheduled tour in South Africa in 1973. The New Zealand government has vehemently opposed this issue and deemed the combination of sport and politics unacceptable.
The situation escalated in 1976, when New Zealand toured South Africa, with the consent of the then Conservative government. The drop made the pot overflow: 33 African countries boycotted the subsequent Montreal Olympics, deeming the behavior of the Oceanian state unacceptable, and perceived as favoring apartheid policies in South Africa. The boycott had no effect: Blacks and Springboks both continued to challenge each other on the tour. New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon continued to advocate “no politics in sport”. Thus the country was divided: on the one hand, the conservatives favor the split between politics and sport, and on the other hand the opponents (many of Maori origin) who demanded the suspension of meetings and the government’s condemnation of the apartheid policy. .
Start the tour
In 1977, the New Zealand government gave the green light for the future 1981 round. Prime Minister Muldoon reiterated that there will be no political interference in sport. Many considered the round a form of propaganda: the NDP wanted to secure votes in the upcoming legislative elections.
In July 1981 the tour began regularly … under worse sponsorship. The police organized groups of police officers in riot gear (First time in New Zealand) to defend South Africa. The first attempt to intervene in the protest took place in Gibson, on July 22, when a group of protesters invaded the square. Some people were dragged away by the police … and the crowd.
The following July 25, 350 protesters broke through the fence and made a field invasion of Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. The situation escalated: From the stands, fans threw bottles and various things at the demonstrators, and the police were unable to control the situation. Moreover, a rumor emerged that a small plane was about to fly over the stadium. The scheduled match between Springboks and Waikato has been canceled.
On August 15 at Lancaster Park in Christchurch, Springboks and the First Blacks met in their first three Test matches. Obviously nothing got off to a good start. A group of opponents managed to break through the security cordon and storm the square. Some protesters encountered riot police outside the stadium. The situation calmed down when the agents managed to disperse the crowd.
It all happened in the second Test match, scheduled for Wellington on August 19. Opponents wanted to sabotage the meeting’s success: Communications facilities, including some repeaters, were damaged. Phone service and data transmission were stopped but the match was broadcast, with national television taking advantage of a secondary network. To confront riot police, protesters prepared themselves with motorcycle helmets. The police cordoned off the stadium with barbed wire, to prevent an attempt to storm the stadium.
The last test in Auckland was the most troublesome. Some street gangs, called “Black Power” and “Mongrel Mob”, joined the demonstrators, whose members are youths of Maori and Polynesian descent. There were no field invasions, but when the first smoke bombs were fired, a small plane followed and flew over Eden Park, dumping bags of flour on the field.
That summer was not a good memory in the hearts of New Zealanders, but it was the right time for the country to highlight racial discrimination against Maori, and link it to apartheid politics in South Africa. A black image of the country but it served … to make it better.