TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s baseball players’ union has hit out at the decision of the Central League to start its season on schedule on March 25 while the country continues to battle the aftermath of last week’s earthquake.
Thousands died when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan last Friday causing a tsunami and damaging a nuclear plant 240-km (150 miles) north of Tokyo where engineers were still battling to avert a disaster on Friday.
While the Pacific League said it would be postponing the start of the season until April 12, the six-team Central League announced on Thursday that games would go ahead as planned.
“What a shame,” Takahiro Arai, the head of the union, told the Kyodo news agency.
“The players’ consensus is that it is inappropriate to start the season when we think of those who were killed, those who are still missing and those who are staying in shelters. It’s just too early.”
While the Pacific League includes the Rakuten Golden Eagles, whose home city of Sendai was badly effected by the disaster, the home cities of the Central League clubs escaped largely unscathed.
“Through baseball, we can make profits and send the proceeds from games to the quake-hit areas,” Hidetoshi Kiyotake of the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants told Kyodo.
“Those actions can encourage people. We’ve decided to act, instead of refraining.”
Basketball’s bj-league will resume action this weekend after cancelling last week’s games but three teams — the Sendai 89ers, Tokyo Apaches and Saitama Broncos — will play no more games this season, the Japan Times reported.
“We, the bj-league, have been running this league as a local-rooting league, and now we think about what we can really do,” commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi told a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday. “And we have figured out that our mission is to encourage the victims and those who suffer.”
The disaster has brought most sporting events in Japan to a halt with concerns about the heavy use of electricity compounding worries about the propriety of playing sport while the disaster continues.
The Japanese Football Association (JFA) responded to New Zealand’s decision not to fulfill an international soccer friendly fixture in Tokyo by announcing a charity match to replace it.
A J.League select team will play the Asian champions in Osaka on March 29 with the proceeds going to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. The J.League has suspended all fixtures until further notice.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Ian Ransom