TOKYO (AP) - With at least one club’s stadium destroyed and its players disbanding, Japan’s national soccer league Monday canceled all games in the country for the rest of the month because of the devastation from the massive earthquake and tsunami.
More matches could be lost in April depending on the disaster recovery, J-League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi said at a news conference. He cited continuing aftershocks and the “inability to guarantee complete safety at all the stadiums.”
Asia’s richest nation faces a mounting humanitarian, nuclear and economic crisis. While the official death toll is nearly 1,900, the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone.
Millions spent a third night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the northeast coast. There are also growing fears of a meltdown after a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity.
At least 41 J-League games have been postponed indefinitely, meaning the J-League probably will have no choice but to play cup and league matches in July when the national team is abroad.
Ohigashi said he has spoken with the club president of Vegalta Sendai and was told the stadium and facilities were in ruins. The team’s foreign players have headed home, and Japanese players from other regions are leaving.
“Needless to say, the players aren’t training. The foreign players have gone home … They’re struggling to live over there. It’s not about training or the game,” Ohigashi said.
The Asian Football Confederation has postponed games that were scheduled for Japan this week.
Kashima Antlers, one of the strongest clubs in Japan, is in the quake-affected zone and was to play Australia’s Sydney FC.
The national team also might withdraw from upcoming international games, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported. It cited the Japan Football Association as saying it was “keeping all options open.”
National coach Alberto Zaccheroni returned to Italy from Tokyo the day after the earthquake, casting doubt on exhibition games against Montenegro and New Zealand this month. The players for those games were to be announced this week.
JFA general secretary Kozo Tashima said a Japan team would be playing as planned in the Copa America in South America in July.