Over the last few weeks there has been ample amounts of negative media attention given to Mate Ma'a Tonga fans. I in no way support fans fighting or being aggressive and it is worrying. However, what I am most concerned about is the amount of negative articles that have been circulated by some media outlets. The constant reporting of a few incidents where a minority group of fans were fighting has dominated the media and has painted all Mate Ma'a Tonga fans as being out of control.
The Tonga v. Samoa game was set up by some media outlets as a 'grudge match' from the beginning with many outlets 'hyping up' the game to the point where it felt like a gang showdown of some sort.
There has always been some rivalry between the nations but this rivalry was pounced upon by some outlets that presented the nations as enemies instead of close neighbours of the Pacific. Fanatical reporting of Tongan v. Samoa violence and confrontations had the nation watching the match to see what kind of 'savage behaviour' would occur.
If you watched or attended the game you will know that there was no need for the extra police security. Teams shows unity and respect for one other, praying together before the game and putting on a sporting show that made both Samoans and Tongans proud. The atmosphere of the game was electric with friends and family sharing videos of the singing that occurred throughout. One commented that it was as close as New Zealand will get to the European football atmosphere.
The day after the game I looked at my Facebook feed and I was angry, as yet again I was confronted with stories of fighting and arrests. Where were the stories about unity? About brotherhood? About the amazing game? While some might say the media is only reporting 'the truth', media could have produced multiple publications that shared the amazing atmosphere and the game itself. The fact they didn't and continue to focus so heavily on negative aspects makes me question whether some media outlets really want to present Tonga and Pacific Island communities as anything other than violent and sports players? The more concerning aspect of this representation of 'all Tongan people' being a particular way is that many in our nation who have no contact with Pacific Island people believe it. Look at Facebook comments attached to these articles for proof. Apparently, it is well known that all Tongan people are violent troublemakers. I, as many of you do, know that this is not the case. But how will we get rid of this stigma if it is constantly reported via media?
Therefore, I am calling out those news media outlets who have represented the Tongan community as violent troublemakers: You present us to the nation, I challenge you to think about the way you are doing that as we are more than what you represent us to be.
Jean M Allen is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. Her opinion piece was published by the Manukau Courier.