JAPAN: JFA cancels U.S. tour

Japan canceled its two-game of the United States because of concerns by Japanese clubs about security risks following the outbreak of war in Iraq.

The decision was made by the Japan Football Association (JFA) at a meeting Friday in Tokyo.

The JFA had last month called off the trip to play Uruguay on March 26 in San Diego and the United States on March 29 in Seattle, but it reversed after a meeting of JFA and U.S. Soccer officials. According to Tokyo newspaper reports, the JFA was given assurances that the FBI and even the CIA would guarantee security, although the JFA had the option to pull out if war broke out.

Zico, Japan's national team coach appointed after the 2002 World Cup, was known to want to go ahead with the tour, which would have allowed him to have a week with his foreign-based stars. but J-League clubs objected to the tour.

JFA President Saburo Kawabuchi, the founder and chairman of the J-League until last year, asked J-League clubs whether to go ahead with the tour. That move gave the JFA cover to cancel the trip despite Kawabuchi's own comments that other American sporting events were going forward despite the war. The tug of war between the JFA and J-League over national team players has been a big issue. Until now, though, Kawabuchi sat on the other side of the table.

Major League Baseball's decision to cancel the Oakland As-Seattle Mariners series in Japan next week for all intents and purposes doomed Japan's West Coast soccer series.

According to reports out of Tokyo, the JFA will pay U.S. Soccer a cancellation fee and is trying to arrange a match against Uruguay in Japan next week.

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