* Soccer friendlies in Tokyo and Shizuoka to go ahead
* Japanese sportsmen in U.S. speak of shock at events
(Adds statement on figure skating)
TOKYO, March 13 Japan plan to host two scheduled
international soccer friendlies later this month despite the
devastation caused by the biggest earthquake on record, which
triggered a 10-metre tsunami that submerged the country's
The 8.9 magnitude quake struck on Friday and with officials
estimating a death toll of more than 10,000 [ID:nL3E7EC0D6],
major sporting events in Japan were postponed over the weekend
but the football association believes the friendlies would help
to rally the nation.
On Sunday, Japan Football Association (JFA) general
secretary Kozo Tashima confirmed the matches against Montenegro
on March 25 at the Shizuoka Stadium, southwest of Tokyo, and New
Zealand in the capital four days later would go ahead.
"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
"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."
All 19 weekend soccer matches in Japan's top two divisions
were cancelled and J.League champions Nagoya Grampus and
Emperor's Cup holders Kashima Antlers had their Asian Champions
League matches scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday postponed.
Kashima were hit hard by the disaster with the club's
stadium and training facilities both badly damaged, Kyodo
reported. Some 150 students and staff at the JFA academy near
Fukushima were evacuated for fears of a radiation leak nearby
National team coach Alberto Zaccheroni and his four
assistants flew home to Italy on Saturday after their relatives
Sunday's Nagoya International women's marathon, a qualifying
race for the World Athletics Championships in August, was called
off, with organisers saying they would decide on a substitute
race by Tuesday.
All of the weekend's Japanese Baseball games were scrapped
as was a Japan LPGA women's golf event in Kochi, which had begun
on Thursday. Next week's women's tournament in Kagoshima has
also been cancelled.
Figure skating officials said they were monitoring events in
Japan to decide if the March 21-27 world championships should go
ahead in Tokyo.
"Recent developments since Saturday, in particular the
developments in the Fukushima nuclear plant, are very
worrisome," the International Skating Union (ISU) said in a
media release on Sunday, adding that it would release a further
statement on Monday.
The Fukushima plant, some 240 km north of Tokyo, was damaged
in the earthquake and authorities set up an exclusion zone
Around the world, Japanese athletes spoke of their shock
about the huge disaster in their homeland.
Golfer Ryo Ishikawa, who was second after the first round of
the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Florida, struggled badly in his
second round after hearing news of the disaster but rallied on
Saturday to move into a tie for 16th.
"I'm pleased that I kept myself tough mentally on the third
day," Ishikawa said.
"Since I'm not in Japan, I haven't been able to grasp the
extent of the damage caused by the earthquake. I believe the
only thing I can do is play well and encourage the people back
Takashi Saito, who pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers in
Major League Baseball (MLB), grew up in the most badly affected
"I was raised in Sendai over 22 years. When I hear the names
of places (in news reports), I start to imagine all the faces of
my friends that I know from there. There are no words for this,"
New York Yankees minor league pitcher Kei Igawa left spring
training in Florida to return home.
"Every time there is an aftershock, my family jumps into the
car to get ready to run. They are spending the whole time
feeling unnerved," the 31-year-old from Oarai said.
Japan international soccer player Yuto Nagatomo and his
Inter Milan team mates wore black armbands in their Italian
league match on Friday, as did tennis player Kei Nishikori in
his first-round defeat at the Indian Wells event in California.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John
O'Brien and Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story