'Rubbish': NZ divided over 'All Whites' name change 'madness'

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Pictured here, the New Zealand men's football team pose for a photo together before a match.
The New Zealand men's football team are nicknamed the 'All Whites' in reference to the colour of their playing strips. Pic: Getty

A heated debate is raging in New Zealand after the country's football governing body said it was considering changing the nickname of the men's national team.

New Zealand Football has revealed that the 'All Whites' name could be changed in order to avoid racist connotations.

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The sport's governing body has confirmed it is reviewing the name, setting the scene for arguments between old school traditionalists and those who value inclusivity.

Many New Zealand national sporting side have colour-based nicknames: the men's cricket side are the Black Caps, the men's basketball side are the Tall Blacks.

However, none rankle like the All Whites, which can be read to mean excluding other ethnicities.

The question of the name change comes as many New Zealand organisations adopt names and identities that incorporate Maori culture and language.

NZ Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell confirmed the discussions were taking place, saying the body was "on a journey around cultural inclusivity".

"We are in the process of working with stakeholders across the game, as well as people from outside football, looking at all areas of the organisation to make sure they are fit for purpose in 2021 and beyond," he said.

"It is too early in the process to speak about any outcomes but this is an important piece of work as we strive to be the most inclusive sport in Aotearoa."

The All Whites nickname dates back 40 years to its qualification run to the 1982 World Cup, when New Zealand donned an all-white kit for the first time against Taiwan.

The fan-given nickname stuck, the moniker sitting as an irreverent contrast to the senior men's rugby side, the All Blacks.

One of New Zealand's greatest ever players, Wynton Rufer - a "proud" Maori man and a member of that 1982 team - said talk of changing the All Whites' name was "absolute madness".

Pictured here, former All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen cheers after a game for New Zealand.
Former All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen is among those who support a rethink of the nickname. Pic: Getty

“It’s very special to every player that’s played in the national team,” Rufer said on SENZ Mornings.

“The All Blacks brand is iconic, and this is no different.

“It’s just amazing to represent your country … and sadly the world’s just getting crazier as we grow older and things develop.

“It’s absolute madness that this is going on and they could even bring it into question. It’s incredible.”

Rufer - who represented New Zealand over a 17-year period from 1980 - said the name originated from a play on the world famous All Blacks' brand and reflected only the colour of the team's strip, not race.

“It’s rubbish, and I’m Maori, I’m proud on my mother’s side,” Rufer added.

Ex-All Whites captain, Ryan Nelsen, told Radio NZ the name should go if "it displeases a tiny minority".

"Just because it's been around for (40 years) doesn't mean it's right," the former Premier League defender said.

"We should be having this conversation about inclusivity. (The name) shouldn't have any negative connotations at all."

All Whites name change idea prompts heated debate

Harry Ngata - another former All Whites player, union representative and commentator - told AAP he didn't have a personal view but could see both sides of the debate.

"A lot of our sporting teams are based on colour," he said.

"Twenty years ago the name wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. That's just the way it was. The class of 2010 are a lot more progressive.

"(A change) is probably inevitable that given the circumstances, the climate we're living in at the moment."

The issue has proven particularly divisive on social media, where the potential name change has sparked fierce debate.

with AAP

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