With at least one club's stadium already destroyed and its players disbanding, organizers of Japan's national football league decided on Monday to cancel all domestic matches for the rest of March due to the devastation caused by the deadly earthquake and tsunami.
"Things are very serious right now," J-League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi told a news conference in Tokyo. "With the aftershocks continuing and the inability to guarantee complete safety at all the stadiums, the J-League has made the decision to cancel all J1, J2 and Nabisco Cup matches for the rest of March."
He said more matches could be lost in April, depending on the disaster recovery.
At least 41 J-League matches have been postponed indefinitely, meaning the J-League will likely have no choice but to play cup and league matches in July when the national team is due to be playing abroad.
Ohigashi told Japanese reporters Monday that he'd spoken with Vegalta Sendai club president Yoichi Shirohata and was told the club's stadium and facilities were in ruins. The club's foreign players have headed home, and Japanese players from other regions are also leaving.
"Needless to say, the players aren't training. The foreign players have gone home ...," Ohigashi said. "They're struggling to live over there. It's not about training or the game." The Asian Football Confederation has also postponed matches that were scheduled to be played in Japan this week.
Kashima Antlers, one of the strongest clubs in Japan, is in the quake-affected zone and was due to play Australia's Sydney FC. The national team could also be withdrawn from international competition in the near future, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported, citing the Japan Football Association as saying only that it was "keeping all options open."
JFA general secretary Kozo Tashima said a Japan team would be playing as planned as an invitee in the Copa America in South America in July.
National team head coach Alberto Zaccheroni returned to Italy from Tokyo the day after the earthquake, casting doubt on the scheduled friendlies against Montenegro and New Zealand later this month. Squads for those matches were due to be announced this week. But Japan is in disaster mode, with disruptions across every facet of life.
Asia's richest nation faces a mounting humanitarian, nuclear and economic crisis in the aftermath of a massive earthquake and tsunami last Friday.
Millions of people spent a third night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the devastated northeastern coast on Sunday. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity, raising fears of a meltdown, while the stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.
A Japanese police official said 1,000 washed up bodies were found scattered Monday across the coastline of Miyagi prefecture. The discovery raised the official death toll to about 2,800 but the Miyagi police chief has said that more than 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone, which has a population of 2.3 million.