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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Performing the Haka, a Maori tradition, brings Serra's football team together

Serra is known this season for its offensive weapons as much as its 12-0 record, which it will put on the line tonight at El Segundo in the CIF Southern Section Northwest Division semifinals.

It has also become known for something that it considers as much a part of its identity as its quest for a CIF championship: the Haka, the traditional Maori dance Serra's Tongan population brings to the football team.

The tradition is going on five years and three classes at Serra. Coach Scott Altenberg got the idea from his former Bishop Montgomery High teammate, Chris Maumalanga, who played college football at Kansas and in the NFL.

Maumalanga, who is deeply involved in Tongan youth programs, suggested that Serra give it a try. Maumalanga remains passionate about directing Tongan youth to football as a better alternative to gang life, so Altenberg welcomed his former teammate's contributions to Serra's program.

Although Tongan football players performed the Haka as young Rugby players in the South Bay, partially imitating the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, there was some resistance when the tradition was introduced to a multicultural team at Serra.

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