Warm PNG Wel­come Brings Out The Smiles

Fiji Sun - - Sport - Feed­back: os­eab@fi­jisun.com.fj

After a long jour­ney from dis­tant corners of the globe, land­ing in a coun­try one knows lit­tle about could per­haps have been daunt­ing for the more in­ex­pe­ri­enced trav­ellers among the 15 na­tions in Pa­pua New Guinea for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. How­ever, the 315 young ath­letes need not have wor­ried about the kind of re­cep­tion they would re­ceive upon ar­rival in Pa­pua New Guinea. Ev­ery sin­gle team ar­riv­ing into Port Moresby was met by a large group of lo­cals who took it upon them­selves to adopt a team, and pro­vide a wel­come that was both af­fec­tion­ate and in­fec­tious.

This was no half-hearted ef­fort. It didn’t mat­ter whether it was 5am, or in the mid­dle of a work­ing day. A large group of PNG lo­cals were on hand, decked out in their adopted team’s colours. Painted faces and flags of the re­spec­tive coun­tries were the norm.

It was in­struc­tive to see the tired faces of the play­ers head­ing through the air­port doors quickly turn to beam­ing smiles. There fol­lowed self­ies, hugs, hand­shakes and waves of friend­ship. This is hos­pi­tal­ity Pa­cific-style. Pa­pua New Guinea is a coun­try where tra­di­tional val­ues and cus­toms re­main strong. There are only lim­ited signs of glob­al­i­sa­tion in what is still a mostly mono­cul­tural so­ci­ety. Like many great sport­ing events, the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup is a chance for var­i­ous cul­tures to mix and learn from each other. This was the idea be­hind PNG mo­bil­is­ing their var­i­ous vil­lages, church and com­mu­nity groups for the wel­come. “We want to give warm smiles and love and af­fec­tion to the coun­tries that are com­ing here, a real PNG wel­come,” PNG Sports Min­is­ter Justin Tkatchenko told FIFA.com. “At the end of the day we want to show what the Pa­cific is all about and what we are try­ing to achieve with our sport­ing events. “We want to be am­bas­sadors of our coun­try, and have our vis­i­tors go away and say, ‘What a won­der­ful coun­try it is and what a won­der­ful peo­ple they are’.

“We also plan to take the vis­i­tors on off days to des­ig­nated ar­eas of the city and be wel­comed by moth­ers and young women. We hope to give them a new ex­pe­ri­ence that they would never have had be­fore, how our peo­ple live, what our cul­tures are. They can take that mem­ory back home that they have not just stayed, but been to the grass­roots and seen the real life of our peo­ple.

“It will be a ben­e­fit to the lo­cals too of course. They heard of the Rio Olympics in Brazil, but per­haps have never met a Brazil­ian per­son be­fore. It is about meet­ing a dif­fer­ent per­son and a dif­fer­ent cul­ture.” The fam­ily cul­ture that per­me­ates through­out the Pa­cific is un­doubt­edly a pri­mary un­der­lin­ing theme.

“Th­ese are the daugh­ters of fam­i­lies across the world, and through­out the Pa­cific there is a strong fam­ily ori­en­tated na­ture. So it is about tak­ing care of our guests while they are here, wel­com­ing them to the Pa­pua New Guinea fam­ily and en­sur­ing they are looked after be­fore they re­turn home,” said Lo­cal Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Sea­mus Marten. “This is a chance for proud Pa­pua New Guineans to show their cul­ture, their warmth and to wel­come in­ter­na­tional guests. It is a re­ally unique place and there is no big­ger plat­form to pro­mote that side of the coun­try than a FIFA World Cup.” And it’s fair to say each and ev­ery team was thrilled by their re­cep­tion. “It was great that at 5am in the morn­ing a whole school class was wait­ing for us – sim­ply to say ‘Hello’,” Ger­many coach Maren Mein­ert. “It shows how much in­ter­est the peo­ple have in pre­sent­ing them­selves as a coun­try at a big sports event. It is great to see how happy the peo­ple are. They put their hearts into it to mak­ing the World Cup hap­pen here, and that is re­ally nice.”

If first im­pres­sions are the most en­dur­ing, then the peo­ple of Pa­pua New Guinea will long be re­mem­bered by ev­ery sin­gle visi­tor at the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup. –FIFA.COM

Port Moresby lo­cals took it upon them­selves to adopt a team, and pro­vide a wel­come that was both af­fec­tion­ate and in­fec­tious.

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