#Post Updated at 10.25pm Tuesday#
Its now 11 days since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck north-eastern Japan. In that time the death toll has risen over 9,000, with another 12,000 people still missing. I've never seen such unimaginable scenes of destruction, and my heart goes out to all of the victims. Football remains a secondary concern through all this, but this is a football blog....so I'm here to update the situation in the J.League, and FC Tokyo in particular.
We already knew that all fixtures for the remainder of March have been postponed, and whispers on twitter over the weekend indicated that almost all of April would be pushed back too. The last weekend in April was mooted as the most likely return date, but after lengthy discussions at J.League HQ today, and despite the massive logistical concerns they are still to work through, it was decided play in both J1 and J2 will resume on April 23rd, the "eighth" week of the season (as originally scheduled).
For FC Tokyo, the first game back will be a trip to Chiba on Sunday the 24th, to play JEF, the team I had second in my Pre-Season Power Rankings, and 3-0 winners over Kitakyushu in the first game of the season. Our first home game back will be the visit of Sapporo on Saturday, April 30th - and all that means that six games (Matchdays 2 - 7) will have to be made up during the course of the season.
Now that we've got that good news, here's a quick summary of what's been happening at and around FC Tokyo:
The squad visited the East Exit of Shinjuku Station on Sunday afternoon, and collected over 2.3 million yen in donations from the public. All of that money will be sent to victims of the disaster.
Shuichi Gonda and Takuji Yonemoto have been named in the squad for two Under 22 friendlies against Uzbekistan, and Yasuyuki Konno is in the full national squad for the Earthquake & Tsunami Charity Match, against a J.League selection, to be played in Osaka next Tuesday, the 29th. Former Gasmen defender Teruyuki Moniwa was named in the J.League "Team as One" squad of 20.
Players coming, going (temporarily) & returning
-The club hasn't officially announced it, but Australian international Jade North, who had been on trial for a month, had his medical and signed for us on the day the earthquake struck. One of my twitter friends, Paul Williams (@dasher39), pointed out this article about Jade's earthquake experience to me (unfortunately calling us "Tokyo FC" - this link is the Melbourne Herald Sun version), where Jade reveals he was having his medical when the big jolt occurred. North has headed back to Australia at the instruction of the club and will return once the situation becomes clearer (and he receives his visa and international clearance).
-Our three Brazilians have also returned home for the time being, and as with North, will be back when the League sets a return date.
-Yohei Kajiyama has recovered from his calf strain, and yesterday played in a training match for the first time since February 9th, which leads me to...
Training match vs Tokyo Gakugei University
Eight days after Meiji University visited Kodaira, FC Tokyo welcomed the students of Tokyo Gakugei for a 4 x 35 minute game yesterday. The Gasmen ran out 5-0 winners, with goals from Sota Hirayama (3rd min) and Hokuto (27th) in the first quarter, Yohei Otake (45th) in the second, and a trainee (92nd) and Sotan Tanabe (104th) in the third.
In team news, Gonda reclaimed his place in goal, with Hitoshi Shiota playing the second quarter. Yuhei Tokunaga was missing so Kenta Mukuhara played at right back, but otherwise the team for the first quarter was the same as the Meiji game. Casual got through the full third quarter, and hopefully the club will ease him back into action, considering we won't be playing a competitive game for another month.
Back to Aji Sta
The club announced our next training match will be against JFL side Yokogawa Musashino FC, this Sunday the 27th, at Ajinomoto Stadium (1pm kickoff). Admission will be free, but fans will be able to donate money for the disaster relief efforts inside the ground.
When I originally posted this early this afternoon, I wasn't expecting a decision to be made on the resumption of league play this quickly. Credit to the J.League for doing things the right way, and taking time to make the right decision (even though we'd all like to see football return sooner). In the meantime, (well, we know we've got a month to wait now!) if you're after some light reading, here's the Why I Follow...FC Tokyo article I sent Paul for his excellent blog Asian Football Feast. It shouldn't take you a month to read, but its a start!
You'll Never Walk Alone