TOKYO - Japan will host a charity football
match on March 29 but have cancelled this month's friendly
against Montenegro in the wake of last week's devastating
earthquake and tsunami.
The Japan Football Association (JFA) had hoped to host the
March 25 match in Shizuoka, and New Zealand in Tokyo four days
later, to "rally the nation".
The match against Montenegro should have been a celebratory
occasion with the Blue Samurai playing their first match at home
since winning a record fourth Asian Cup in January.
But with fire breaking out at a crippled Japanese nuclear
plant and low levels of radiation wafting into Tokyo, JFA chief
Junji Ogura decided to cancel the match in the city southwest of
the capital, the Kyodo news agency reported
The JFA will, however, play a match on March 29 against a
domestic side if New Zealand, who are due to make a decision on
whether to compete on Thursday, opt against travelling.
"We have decided to hold a charity match at Nagai Stadium on
March 29," the Kyodo news agency reported Ogura as saying.
"Details still need to be sorted out but we hope to play New
Zealand, which like Japan has also suffered damage from a big
earthquake," Ogura said, referring to the 6.3 magnitude
earthquake that struck Christchurch last month killing at least
"Coach (Alberto) Zaccheroni and the Japan national team
players have said they want to do something to help the victims
of this disaster."
Japan captain Makoto Hasebe echoed the need to use the game
to give some cheer to the suffering people.
"Japan is facing a very tough time right now and we very
much want to give the people something back in return, however
small," Hasebe said.
New Zealand football chiefs said earlier on Wednesday that
they wanted to compete but had to make sure it was safe to
travel to Japan.
"There's a huge desire to show solidarity with the Japanese
people but we need to be able to guarantee the safety of our
players and staff, as would any responsible organisation," New
Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum said.
"We are currently working with the Japanese FA and the
appropriate government authorities to confirm whether those
guarantees can be provided."
Japanese football officials had already postponed the domestic
J.League indefinitely with most of the sporting calendar in the
country also on hold.
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