HANAPEPE — Because of an on-field altercation from a previous game, the upcoming varsity boys soccer match between Kapaa and Waimea high schools will be closed off to the public and media.
The game is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Hanapepe Stadium. Only the players, coaches and school and game officials will be allowed on-site and that Kauai police will be present, according to a news release from the Kauai Interscholastic Federation.
The KIF Executive Board, comprised of the public schools’ principals, made the decision on the game being closed publicly “to ensure the safety of all game participants.”
KIF President and Waimea High School Principal Mahina Anguay did not return a message from The Garden Island seeking comment.
Kapaa High School Principal Tommy John Cox responded by referring TGI to “the State Communications Office” Tuesday.
“I would say that it’s unfortunate that the altercation took place last Wednesday. We’re respectful of the board’s decision to change the circumstances of the game, which is to have no spectators,” said Kapaa High School Athletic Director Greg Gonsalves. “I spoke to (head coach Kevin Cram) this morning. We’re planning and hoping that it’s a day of great soccer. I don’t anticipate that we will have any further problems. I believe the board is just concerned about the safety of our student athletes, and we hope to continue to promote sportsmanship in the KIF.”
Waimea High School Athletic Director Jon Kobayashi declined to comment on the subject Tuesday.
The altercation took place during a KIF varsity boys soccer game between the schools on Jan. 9 at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue. The altercation led to the game being suspended.
Waimea varsity boys soccer assistant coach Kapono Chong-Hanssen was the team’s acting head coach in the Jan. 9 game. He said previously to TGI that head coach Mark Kennett wasn’t present.
Chong-Hanssen believes the KIF board decided to close off the match to the public to prevent future incidents where the crowd gets too involved in the games.
“They’ve been talking about that for a while because of incidents where parents, basically, parents crossed barriers that were meant to keep them away from the playing field or coaches and players. That was part of the incident that happened the last game,” Chong-Hanssen said. “I think that was KIF’s response to that incident, to make sure that we don’t have another incident like that.”
At the time of suspension, Waimea had a 1-0 lead about halfway through the first half. Whether this match will resume depends on if it is needed to determine a league champion.
“I was there. From my vantage point, it started with a collision between two players, and it unfortunately escalated to loss of control,” Gonsalves said. “That was basically what it was. It was collision. The boys engaged each other. It didn’t last long. It was squashed pretty quickly, but there were some displays of lack of self-control. I’m not placing blame on anybody. It’s just a circumstance that’s unfortunate for our league.”
For Kapaa, two players were handed one-game suspensions, which were served during Saturday’s game against Island School at Vidinha Stadium.
Cram, too, doesn’t predict any future complications.
“I don’t know if I’d use the word experimental or just one avenue that could be done to see how it affects the game,” Cram said. “My thought is that if the game were played as normal given what’s happened to this point, I don’t foresee any problems. But I think it’s a preventative measure. I don’t know if it’s to set a precedence or to emphasize the seriousness of the actions that occurred. I’m not sure, but I support the decision and I’m willing to go with whatever they decide is best for the student-athletes.”
As for playing the upcoming game without spectators, Cram said it will be “business as usual” for him.
“For the players, I don’t think it will be a distraction. I think they’ll be able to focus more, maybe,” the Warriors coach said. “Generally during a game, we don’t care (about) the majority of what’s going on outside of what’s occurring on the field. So, things are being said or even done in the stands, we don’t hear about until after the game. I don’t foresee it as a distraction or negative in any way.”
For Waimea, three players were suspended for the rest of the season.
The Menehune team also forfeited last Saturday’s scheduled game against Kauai High School because of drawing a team red card for leaving the bench, Chong-Hanssen said.
“I think it’s always a shame. We don’t have that many teams here, so it’s always a shame to forfeit a match because players from both teams miss out on a match,” he said. “But the rules are the rules, and the consequences are going to be what they are. So, we accept the consequences that were handed down to us.”
As for the upcoming game this weekend, Chong-Hanssen said it’s a shame to not have a crowd because it’s the team’s last home game.
“We have one senior, and his senior day, he has to play without a crowd,” he said. “That’s unfortunate, but he’s mature enough to handle it, and we’re mature enough as a team. It’s not a big deal, but that’s a shame. But that’s the consequences of bad decisions, and we’ll live with it.”
The Menehune coach added he hopes all parties involved will reconcile soon.
“It was a serious incident, and consequences are warranted,” Chong-Hanssen said. “I just think that as bad as it sounds, both of these teams, I think we’re big enough to get past it. At the end of the season, we always end up supporting the KIF winner as they go to states. I just hope by the end of the season, we get back to that place again.”