(WFI) Japan’s national team will face top J.League players later this month in a charity match to benefit the areas hardest hit by last Friday’s quake.

The March 29 charity match will be the first significant football fixture played in Japan since last week’s devastating quake. (Getty Images)

“We received many messages from our fans and supporters who commented that in these tough times the Japan national team should provide the people with courage and something positive,” JFA president Junji Ogura said in a statement.

“We also have had strong requests from coach [Alberto] Zaccheroni and national team players to do something to support and encourage the victims.”
Two AFC Champions League matches with Japanese teams playing at home are postponed indefinitely due to quake damage, and a pair of friendlies against Montenegro and New Zealand are cancelled. Last weekend’s slate of 19 J.League matches was also called off.
According to Ogura, the decision to return to the pitch so soon after a disaster that’s left almost 7,000 dead and thousands more missing was not unanimous.
“Some people have expressed the concern that it may be too soon to hold a charity match,” he said.
“We have taken all these views into consideration and carefully thought this matter over, and have come to the conclusion that because this is a difficult moment, we will hold a charity match to support the victims in their recovery.”
Japan first reached out to New Zealand to see if the Kiwi national team would be up for playing its Japanese counterpart, nicknamed Samurai Blue. Christchurch was struck by a devastating tremor last month, and the JFA hoped to raise money for its quake victims as well.
“I received a phone call from the president of the New Zealand F.A. early in the afternoon, and could understand that it was a tough decision they had to make following lengthy discussions,” Ogura said. 
“We wanted to make the charity match for both countries, but I am grateful to them for their consideration.”
The J.League will now suit up its best 11 players for the March 29 fixture at Nagai Stadium in Osaka, a venue not affected by aftershocks, transportation problems or electricity shortages.
“We know some clubs are not functioning at the moment but would like to talk with all concerned to form the strongest available team for the game,” J.League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi said in a statement.
Also unclear is whether this incarnation of Samurai Blue will include Japanese players who are based in Europe and would have been available for the New Zealand friendly originally scheduled for March 29 but cancelled earlier this week.
“Since this is not an international A match anymore, we will ask for the cooperation of their clubs to call up as many of our players as possible,” said JFA technical director Hiromi Hara. 
Lineups will be announced later, as will the kickoff time.
All match revenues will be contributed to the quake-hit areas. The JFA will also place boxes around Nagai Stadium for spectators to make additional donations.

By INSIDER’s Matthew Grayson

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