Japan may face N.Z.; Montenegro game off

Kyodo News

Japan’s friendly against Montenegro in Shizuoka on March 25 has been canceled due to the aftermath of Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, but the Japan Football Association said Wednesday it hopes to go ahead with the game against New Zealand four days later.

Japan were set to face New Zealand in the two-match Kirin Challenge Cup at Tokyo’s National Stadium but the JFA now wants to play the All Whites on March 29 in a charity match in Osaka, which has been unaffected by one of the worst natural disasters to hit the country.

“We have decided to hold a charity match at Nagai Stadium on March 29. Details still need to be sorted out but we hope to play New Zealand, which like Japan has also suffered damage from a big earthquake,” said JFA President Junji Ogura, referring to the quake that hit Christchurch last month.

“Coach (Alberto) Zaccheroni and the Japan national team players have said they want to do something to help the victims of this disaster.”

Ogura said he expected New Zealand Football Chairman Frank van Hattum to inform him Thursday whether or not the team would make the trip for the game.

“New Zealand has obviously seen on the television what the situation is here and asked for reassurances,” said Ogura.

“I have visited the New Zealand Embassy and told (Ambassador to Japan) Ian Kennedy that we want to stage the game in Osaka. The embassy will be able to better explain what kind of place Osaka is to the New Zealand association and he (Kennedy) has said he would be delighted to do that.”

Ogura said a charity match would still be planned against “a domestic team” should New Zealand opt out.

National team captain Makoto Hasebe said in a statement, “We were able to do well at the (2010) World Cup and the Asian Cup (in January) because of the support we got from everyone in Japan.”

“Japan is facing a very tough time right now and we very much want to give the people something back in return, however small,” added the Wolfsburg midfielder.