Haka to hit new Cowboys stadium


POSTED: Monday, September 07, 2009

EULESS, TEXAS » The Euless Trinity Trojans ran countless drills during a month of preparation for the first high school football game at the new Cowboys Stadium.

They practiced the haka with equal fervor.

The team's Polynesian war dance started four years ago as a nod to this middle American suburb's strong ties to the tiny Pacific island kingdom of Tonga. It grew into a local phenomenon that attracted national attention while Trinity was winning state championships, largely due to the size, strength and quickness of its Tongan athletes.

Now, the haka is getting an overhaul—a homemade haka, if you will—written and choreographed by the original dance leader who finds time among three jobs to instruct Trinity's players. The new dance will debut today at the Cowboys' stadium against South Jordan Bingham, one of Utah's best teams and another one that does the haka.

“;Our boys, they're wanting to be proud of their haka,”; said Trinity assistant coach Jason Dibble, who handles special teams, cornerbacks and the haka. “;I don't know if it's a showdown, but we definitely don't want to be in the palace here and be out-hakaed.”;

When the Trojans started talking haka, they wanted to make sure Tongan elders in the community approved. The leaders were ecstatic because they felt more a part of the city's culture. Nobody seemed to care that Trinity's original haka was actually from New Zealand's native Maori culture, which originated the dance more than 200 years ago.

Now that the novelty is gone, Trinity players and coaches are learning more about the haka.

For instance, says Tongan resident Ofa Faiva-Siale, there are many hakas in all Pacific island cultures, and people can create their own. She suggested a version unique to Trinity.

“;It doesn't matter what language it's in, but one should be done specifically for our community and Trinity High School,”; said Faiva-Siale, a historian for the city of Euless. “;There's not any large group of Samoans in this school, and not a large group of Tahitians or Hawaiians. A big chunk of it is Tongans, so why not?”;

Fans have gone crazy with it, buying “;Got Haka”; T-shirts and waiting up to 15 minutes to see the dance again after the game, even though it's the same one they saw hours earlier.

The craze has its roots in Lineweaver's efforts, Tongan leaders say. He was reaching out to their culture long before anyone floated the idea of the haka. He asked the elders, as he calls the leaders, for permission before the haka was performed in public.

“;Our culture is very family oriented, and coach Lineweaver and his staff have understood that from the beginning,”; Faiva-Siale said. “;There's a little bit of Tongan in him, and I think that's something most people in my community appreciate.”;