HANAPEPE — Kapaa High School parent Lori Banasihan said she was reluctant to let her son play in Saturday’s match because she wouldn’t be able to watch from the stands.
Her worries, though, went away as she watched from outside Hanapepe Stadium.
“I decided to drive down here and see if we could watch from the fence at least, to keep my mind at ease so I can at least see what’s going on,” Banasihan said. “I feel good about it. Like I said, I came here apprehensive and scared, but I feel good. It seems the game is going along well and not too overly physical like it has been in the past.”
Saturday’s Kauai Interscholastic Federation varsity boys soccer match between Kapaa and Waimea high schools was closed to the public and media. Only players, coaches and game and school officials were allowed on the stadium grounds.
Kauai police officers were present at the stadium.
A few dozen supporters from both schools watched from outside the fence surrounding the field.
“First of all, it’s free,” said Ramon Semblante, whose son plays for Waimea. “But I love to support Waimea, and the only way we can support is outside the fence.”
The KIF Executive Board, comprised of the public schools’ principals, announced in a news release Wednesday that Saturday’s match was off-limits publicly — “to ensure the safety of all game participants” — following an altercation during a previous match between the two schools on Jan. 9 at Vidinha Stadium.
Banasihan said her husband was involved in that altercation at Vidinha Stadium and it’s perhaps why the league decided to close the game to the public.
She said her husband left the stands and jumped on to the field to confront a Waimea coach after the coach pulled her son aside attempting to lead him away from the altercation.
Banasihan declined to give her husband’s name.
“I felt like they’re blaming his actions of trying to protect our son at the last game,” she said. “I felt like they were blaming him for the reason why the closed the game off, because he had gone down to protect our son. It’s all good now, I guess. I still got to watch the game. That’s the main thing.”
Semblante, who is also KIF soccer game official, attended that Jan. 9 game. He declined to comment on the incident itself, but agreed with the game officials’ decision to stop play.
“I remember it was a good call from the ref, just ending the game for safety reasons,” Semblante said.
Waimea defeated Kapaa on Saturday, 1-0. Braden Lumabao scored the game’s only goal.
The game appeared to have gone on without problems. The gates opened following the varsity boys match, and spectators were allowed in for the scheduled matches that followed.
“No problems at all,” said Waimea varsity boys soccer head coach Mark Kennett. “The officiating was excellent, and the game was kept completely under control. Everybody kept their emotions under control. That’s a big plus.”
Kapaa head coach Kevin Cram said: “There wasn’t any problems, and I didn’t expect there would be any problems. So hopefully, it accomplished what they wanted to accomplish, and we can move forward.”
From outside the stadium, the loudest instances were when Waimea supporters cheered after Lumabao’s goal and then cheered again in celebration of the team’s win after the final whistle.
“Just really happy for the boys. They really needed that,” said Kristi Owen, whose son plays for Waimea. “It was a big win, even though we’re pretty much out of (KIF contention). They’ve been playing so great and hard, so I’m just happy.”
Owen said of the game being closed from the public: “Actually, the view isn’t too bad. I’m OK with it. Whatever keeps the players safe and the fans safe, I’m with that.”
Kennett, though he wasn’t present at the Jan. 9 game, said he understood the league’s decision.
“I’ve actually been in other leagues where this has happened. Because of what happened, I think it was an appropriate step in the right direction,” Kennett said. “As long as don’t have to do it all the time and we can solve the initial problem, in light of the incident — which we do not want anything like that to ever happen again — I think the KIF handled it OK.”
Everyone who commented said despite everything that happened, they hope all parties will reconcile and move on.
“I hope that in the future we can all play the game of soccer. I felt like it was getting to be more of a physical fight rather than just playing soccer,” Banasihan said. “That’s all I wanted, just everyone to play within the rules and have a fun game — a good, aggressive, fun game, but within the rules of the game.”
Semblante said: “At the end of the season, let’s make a big potluck and get-together as a community. Kauai is too small for that kind of incident, you know?”
Owen said: “Going forward, I hope everyone learned their lessons as far as how this works, and maybe the boys think twice about playing that way. So, yeah, I guess everyone learned their lesson and we can come in next season and play a safe, fun, competitive season.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Kapaa had two players serve one-game suspensions.
Waimea had three players suspended for the rest of the season and the team forfeited one match because of a team red card.
The Jan. 9 match will not need to be continued because Kapaa has already clinched the league championship. At the time of suspension, Waimea had a 1-0 lead about midway through the first half.
“I just hope that there are no incidents like this in the future,” Cram said. “If it prevents it from happening, then we can take that as a positive.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.