Commentator apologises for Crufts group clanger


Mateaki Mafi and Freddo dei Mastini della Rupe.

A CRUFTS commentator has apologised to an exhibitor for describing his national costume as a ‘slobber cloth’ during group judging at Crufts.

Jessica Holm referred to Mateaki Mafi’s Ta’ovala formal Tongan dress that way while he was showing Neapolitan Mastiff BOB Freddo dei Mastini della Rupe, who has won BOB for the past two years.

To make matters worse, Dr Holm said the same thing last year, when she said Mr Mafi’s ‘skirt’ was used for slobber.

Mr Mafi told DOG WORLD he was very upset when he heard his ‘historical and cultural outfit’ described as a slobber cloth and that his partner Kim Slater had contacted Dr Holm to give her information about the traditional costume.

Mr Mafi, who thinks Dr Holm should apologise publicly, said he was a very proud Tongan and the Ta’ovala was a significant and meaningful part of Polynesian culture, demonstrating pride, honour and respect. Tonga monarch Queen Salote wore one when welcoming Queen Elizabeth II to the Friendly Islands, and most recently the Tongan flag bearer in the 2016 Olympics opening ceremony.

Wearing the garment at an important occasion is the way in which Mr Mafi – who has lived in the UK for more than 20 years – shows his family and friends that he still represents and is proud of his birthplace.

“It’s definitely not the best thing to have happened,” Mr Mafi said. “It was a painful shock last year but I tried to deal with it with a sense of humour then. We all like to have a laugh and a joke, but something like this should not happen. Last year someone wanted me to make a complaint but I let it go and focused on my dogs.

“But then it happened again this year. I was very, very angry and hurt – not just for me but for all the Polynesian people.

“They saw it and went mad – there have been some nasty comments on Facebook. It was very disrespectful.”

Dr Holm told DOG WORLD that the commentaries at Crufts went out live.

“There is no prep time or heads-up, and as a team our job is to commentate on the dogs from our experience and the snippets of information provided on the commentary sheets handed to all Crufts BOB winners to fill in,” she said.

“I’ve never been lucky enough to travel to Tonga and have no Tongan friends, therefore I have to admit that my knowledge of Tongan ceremonial dress is lacking. As far as I recall, no information regarding the costume had been provided by the exhibitor on the commentary sheet.

“I can only apologise for my lack of knowledge regarding Tongan national costume and assert that obviously, no offence or insult was ever intended.”

Mr Mafi, who has played for his country’s rugby team, was nominated as exhibitor of the year in this year’s Pawscars Awards.