Japan have confirmed that two international friendlies will go ahead later this month despite the earthquake and tsunami.
Japan Football Association general secretary Kozo Tashima said the matches against Montenegro on March 25 at the Shizuoka Stadium, southwest of Tokyo, and New Zealand in Tokyo four days later would go ahead.
The devastating 8.9-earthquake and 10-metre tsunami that submerged the country’s northeast coast on Friday has left an estimated death toll of more than 10,000.
“It would mean something to stage these games, more than ever,” the Kyodo news agency reported Tashima saying at the JFA headquarters in Tokyo.
“We will hold it in Shizuoka of course, and I think having the game in Tokyo will really mean something. The matches are still two weeks away and we need to send a message to the rest of the world.”
“The images people are seeing on CNN and what not, the world probably doesn’t have an accurate view of what Tokyo is like at the moment.”
“We need to inform people that Tokyo is functional, that the city is okay and order is being restored in Tokyo again.”
“The entire Japanese football community needs to help the country get back on its feet again,” Tashima added. “Not just soccer, but I think the whole sports world in Japan needs to step up for the nation.”
NZF chairman Frank van Hattum said the JFA told him they were keen for the match at Tokyo’s National Stadium, which has been sold out, to go ahead as planned.
Tokyo had been relatively unaffected, he said, and there were suggestions the match could be used as a joint fundraiser for Japan and Christchurch, which is recovering from a deadly earthquake on February 22.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand under-17 men’s team will travel to Japan on Tuesday as planned for an international tournament without their Japanese counterparts.
The 16-team Sanix Cup will see the Young All Whites play six games in four days in Fukuoka, on the southern island of Kyushu, and is the first leg of an Asian tour that also takes in two games against Qatar’s Aspire Academy in Doha.
The JFA suspended the weekend’s J-League fixtures and two matches in the AFC Champions League were also postponed.