- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TOKYO (AP) - The cancellation of soccer games in Japan was extended into early April because of the devastation from the earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks.

Japansese soccer authorities already had decided that the nation’s two top leagues would not play for the rest of March. Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that clubs from those leagues met Tuesday in Tokyo and decided to call off games for April 2 and 3.

“There’s no telling when we can restart the league again,” Kashima Antlers President Shigeru Ibata was quoted as saying after the meeting. “The situation is getting worse by the day. Most of the people of the committee agree that the first week of April is already out of the question.”

Top-tier clubs Vegalta Sendai and Montedio Yamagata, plus Mito Hollyhock of J-League 2, all sustained serious damage from Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that followed. Representatives of those clubs were unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The soccer teams also are trying preserve electricity at a time of national shortage.

“Whether we play at night and use the floodlights or not, an enormous amount of electricity is used to host one match,” Ibata said. “In these circumstances when we’re short on electricity, it wouldn’t be right to be playing.”

Japanese clubs’ home games in the Asian Champions League have been postponed. Nagoya Grampus was to have hosted Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, and the Kashima Antlers were to have played Australia’s Sydney on Wednesday. Gamba Osaka and Cerezo Osaka are expected to play road games in the Champions League this week.

The J-League cancellations meant it was likely there would be cup and league matches in July when the national team is to be playing abroad.

J-League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi said Monday he had spoken with Vegalta Sendai’s president 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.

“They’re struggling to live over there. It’s not about training or the game,” Ohigashi said.

The national team might withdraw from international games, Kyodo reported, citing the Japan Football Association. 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.

JFA general secretary Kozo Tashima said a Japanese team would play as planned in the Copa America in South America in July.

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