Japanese Domestic Football Comes To Terms With Disastrous Earthquake

Games postponed and infrastructure damaged, but there is also the will to return to play the game as soon as possible.
The devastating earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan on Friday has had a great impact on the nation's football as the clean-up operations begin around the country.

As the earthquake and the tsunami struck, most J1 teams were already travelling for their weekend games, and many got caught in the chaos that followed the natural disaster.

Kashiwa Reysol, for example, were on their way to Osaka for their game against Cerezo, but their bullet train stopped in Yokohama and it took them 22 hours to return to Chiba, located only at the other end of Greater Tokyo.

Players and staff who were at the J-Village training facilities, located only eight kilometres from the power plant in Fukushima that allegedly leaked radioactive material, have been safely evacuated.

J1 and J2 games scheduled for this weekend have all been postponed, due to security issues related to lack of water and electricity and damage to infrastructures.

The most problematic situation is of course that of Vegalta Sendai, the closest J-League club to the epicentre of the earthquake. Beside the airport being flooded by the tsunami, the stadium, the practice fields and other club facilities have been damaged.

Antlers' stadium also will need some repair. It is already confirmed that the game scheduled for March 20, against Albirex, won't be played at the Kashima Soccer Stadium. Omiya's Nack 5 stadium recorded some minimal damaged, but seems safe for use.

Games in the nation's semi-professional third division, JFL, have been postponed, making this weekend the first time in the history of modern Japanese soccer that no games have gone ahead across the top three tiers.

Asian Champions League games for this midweek are also likely to be called off. Kashima Antlers and Nagoya Grampus, who were scheduled to play at home have already confirmed that the matches will be postponed, while the destinies of Gamba and Cerezo Osaka, both due to play away games in China, are not decided yet. Gamba Osaka have reached Tianjing already, while Cerezo are for now still scheduled to leave for Shandong on Monday.

In midweek, the Nabisco League Cup's six games are likely to be postponed as well.

At this point, according to Japanese media, the most likely dates for the make-ups will be in July, which creates a conflict with the Japanese national team's invitation to the Copa America.

Among all the difficulties and the shock due to the tragedy, clubs and players are showing a strong will to return to play as soon as possible. Some of them are already organising events to support the victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

Cerezo Osaka held a charity auction on March 12, while the players' association is planning a donation and a charity event.

Many supporters who had already purchased tickets for this weekend's postponed games, rather than asking for a refund, pledged for clubs to donate the money to the victims of the disaster.

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