H A W A I I _ S P O R T S



Tsunami might be
on the verge of collapse

The team president recommends they fold

By Pat Bigold
Star-Bulletin

The president of the Hawaii Tsunami has recommended that the soccer team fold its operation.

Tsunami president Greg Kowal said last night that poor attendance, lack of corporate sponsorship and a benches-clearing brawl with an Arizona team last Sunday that sent referees scurrying for safety, were factors in the decision.

"That concerns me greatly," said Kowal of the brawl. "I don't want that kind of soccer image for the kids. If I had been there at the game I would have suspended operations right away."

Last weekend, Kowal was on the Big Island, where his daughter, Lisa, played on the Punahou girls' state championship basketball team.

"There is no future," said Kowal, who said he plans to resign in a few days. "I recommended folding the team and limiting the financial exposure. We should do it as gracefully as possible."

Kowal said he discussed the decision with team general manager Manny Menendez and left it up to him as to when the team will cease operations.

Attendance has been minimal at the games. Reports are that fewer than 100 people attended either Friday or Sunday games with Arizona.

The Tsunami are scheduled to play a USISL series Friday night and Sunday afternoon against Los Angeles at Cooke Field.

First-year head coach David Trifonovitch could not be reached last night for comment.

Referee Stefan Grabas said he suspended Sunday's game at Pearl City High field in the 70th minute of the 90-minute contest after the eruption of "an all-out brawl."

Grabas, a 37-year-old chief warrant officer with the Marine Corps, said he already handed out six caution cards to players (two to Hawaii and four to Arizona) and a warning to the coach of the Arizona Saguaro.

"There was a lot of trash talk and several altercations," said Grabas. "The Tsunami were ahead, 3-0, and the Arizona team was agitated. The fight started right behind me."

Grabas, who was the center-field official, said he fled the field when two Arizona players started running at him. He and the other three officials working the game -- linesmen Bruce Ellis and Giovanni Morittu, and alternate Kaleo Benz -- all headed for the high school locker room.

The Tsunami suffered through a 3-15 initial season in 1994 under Frank Doyle but made it into the USISL playoffs in 1995 and 1996 under Andrew Rowley.

A few of the players from the 1995 team went on to play for Major League Soccer franchises.

Kowal said he has not been kept informed of the team's progress this year, despite his position as president. He said he wasn't even sent a schedule.

The Tsunami team's administration is composed of Kowal, Menendez, David Carey and Ted Jung.




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