JFA president Junji Ogura and CONMEBOL chief Nicolas Leoz Football Association Junji Ogura met this week in Luque, Paraguay (Getty)

(WFI) Japanese football chiefs are reconsidering their earlier decision to pull out of the Copa America due to the disruption caused by last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami on domestic fixtures.

Japanese FA president Junji Ogura met with CONMEBOL chief Nicolas Leoz and Argentina Football Association president Julio Grondona this week when it seemed as if the 2011 Asian Cup champions would reject the offer to be a guest team at the championships.

But Japan is now rethinking its stance after CONMEBOL offered to use some revenues from the July tournament to aid the relief efforts.

Football has been all but nonexistent in Japan as the country struggles to rebound from the March 11 disaster.

J. League action, suspended since the 9.0-magnitude struck Japan, restarts on April 23, with the five rounds of suspended games to be played in July, which was already blocked off to free players for the Copa America.

Two AFC Champions League matches with Japanese teams playing at home are postponed indefinitely due to quake damage. A pair of international friendlies against Montenegro and New Zealand were also cancelled last month.

Japan will only play at Copa America if federation leaders can persuade J.League clubs to release their players.

Spain have been approached to replace Japan if the JFA ends up withdrawing.

“The priority at this moment is to continue saving lives and rebuilding the country after the earthquake and tsunami,” Ogura said Monday in a statement on CONMEBOL’s website.

Only last week did players return to the pitch as Samurai Blue beat a collection of top J.League players 2-1 in a charity match attended by 40,613 spectators at Nagai Stadium in Osaka.

At the Copa America, 12 teams take the field in what is association football’s oldest national team competition. Because CONMEBOL has only 10 members, both Mexico and AFC Asian Cup champion Japan received invites for 2011.

Syrian protests force league suspension; Egyptian football resumes
Syria has suspended its domestic football league in response to growing political unrest.

The decision by the Middle Eastern country aims to “allow national, Olympic, youth and junior teams to respond to other commitments,” the Syrian football federation was quoted by AFP.

“New instructions will be given concerning the resumption of sporting activities at the appropriate time.”

But the Syrian Football Federation has not postponed an AFC Cup home match. Inaugural AFC Cup champions Al Jaish host Iraq’s Duhok on April 12 in the capital Damascus’ Al Abbasiyyin Stadium. Syria’s other two representatives – Al Ittihad and Al Karamah – play their respective cup matches away next week.

Anti-government protestors are now lobbying longtime Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad for increased freedoms. Clashes with state security forces have killed somewhere between 30 – the official death toll – and 130 – the estimate activists are reporting.

Meanwhile, leagues in both Egypt and Tunisia also remain on hold months after the rulers of the respective nations were toppled. In each of the Arab countries, the cancellations come in large part because officials fear the use of the soccer pitch as a rallying point for protestors.

The Egyptian Football Association announced on Thursday that the domestic league will resume on April 13.

Doubts were cast on the resumption of the league, suspended since Jan. 25, following last weekend’s violent riot by fans at an African Champions League game in Cairo.

The Confederation of African Football’s disciplinary body will meet in Johannesburg on April 19 to consider reports from match officials in charge of the Zamalek-Club Africain match that was abandoned after the pitch invasion.


US Women’s Professional Soccer kicks off third season

The six-team WPS league kicks off its third season this weekend.

“We’re proud to be able to once again deliver the world-class competition that is associated with WPS,” said the league’s CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas.

“Our season, along with the gathering of women’s soccer’s brightest stars at the Women’s World Cup will be an outstanding platform to continue the growth of our league.”

In 2011, WPS features six teams playing 18 games each from April through August for the chance to qualify for the WPS playoffs. The top team in the regular season will earn the right to host the WPS Championship on Aug. 27.

Teams vying for the championship title include Atlanta Beat, Boston Breakers, magicJack (Palm Beach, FL), Philadelphia Independence, Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) and making their debut in WPS, 2011 expansion team Western New York Flash, who play at Sahlen Stadium in Rochester, NY.

In the off-season, WPS has attracted new sponsorship revenue. It now boasts seven national partners, up from six at this point a year ago.

By INSIDER’s Matthew Grayson and Mark Bisson

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