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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

J. League to resume season on April 23

Staff writer

The J. League will resume action on April 23 with as many afternoon kickoffs as possible for the rest of the season, the league announced Tuesday.

But the status of the three teams whose stadiums have been damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami — Vegalta Sendai, seven-time champion Kashima Antlers and second-division Mito Hollyhock — remains unclear with the possibility of surrogate homes or a delayed return to action still under consideration.

The national team's participation in the July 1-24 Copa America in Argentina is also still undecided, with a backlog of fixtures to make up in a season that was indefinitely postponed after round one and will pick up again in round seven.

J. League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi met with the chairmen of each of the league's 38 clubs with the exception of Vegalta on Tuesday before delivering their verdict.

"There were a lot of opinions from all the clubs, and some wanted to restart sooner," Ohigashi said at a Tuesday news conference. "However we came to the decision that it was best to give ourselves a month and prepare as best we could.

"With that in mind, we decided that April 23 was the best option."

Ohigashi said the need to conserve energy due to the effects of the quake will mean more afternoon kickoffs throughout the season, but said night games in the heat of July were unavoidable.

"We had to bear in mind the amount of electricity it takes to put on a game and also the performances of the players in the heat of the summer," he said.

The J. League also Tuesday announced an all-Japanese squad to take on the national team in a March 29 charity match to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami at Nagai Stadium in Osaka.

The 20-man squad, which will be led by Nagoya Grampus manager Dragan Stojkovic, is comprised of current, past and potential future internationals, with Shunsuke Nakamura, Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Mitsuo Ogasawara and the 44-year-old Kazuyoshi Miura among those selected.

"When the disaster happened I wanted to do something to help, and the way I can do that is through soccer," said Miura, who scored 55 goals in 89 appearances for the national team between 1990 and 2000. "When the idea came about for this game I knew I wanted to be involved.

"It's maybe not right to say that this is something to celebrate, but being picked for this team makes me very happy. Hopefully, even if it is just a small amount, we can now start to move toward a better future."

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