The captain of the Spanish women’s national team issued a public apology on Monday after the soccer team faced massive backlash for a video posted last week that showed four players seemingly mocking a traditional dance of the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Ivana Andres, 29, read a statement at a greeting ceremony in the North Island city of Palmerston North to address the controversy that followed a video which showed some members of their Women’s World Cup squad laughing as they attempted the traditional haka.
“We’ve only been in Aotearoa, New Zealand for a few days and we have so much to learn about your culture,” a translation of Andres’ statement read, according to Reuters. “Therefore, thank you so much for the kindness to dedicate a few minutes of your wisdom, especially in such (an) important moment as Matariki.”
Matariki, which falls on July 14, signifies the New Year in the Maori culture.
“We’d also like to see Matariki as a way to renovate our excitement and for us to learn to enjoy, to share and to reach for new goals and to ask for forgiveness for our mistakes and to learn more each day.”
Members of the local tribe were present at the ceremony. They were gifted with a jersey that had the word Papaioea on it, the Maori name for Palmerston North.
“This shirt represents everything we have to fight for, our sacrifices, our victories, and we hope that you see the privilege we have of playing this tournament in your land.”
A Rangitane O Manawatu iwi spokesperson said Andres’ apology “came from the heart” and showed a level of understanding for the importance of the haka.
The apology came just days before Spain’s opening match against Costa Rica on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.