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Apr 26, 2011

Japan chief praises resilience

President of the Japanese Football Association Junji Ogura is delighted that the J. League returned to action on Saturday following the devastating earthquake that hit the region earlier in the year.

Ogura paid tribute to the recovery after a tsunami on March 11 took many lives and caused major reconstruction problems along the north-east coast of the country.

A minute's silence was held before kick-off at the weekend across Japan, as games in the J. League resumed just 43 days after the disaster.

Ogura told FIFA.com: "As everyone knows, the earthquake that hit Japan caused tremendous difficulties to many of our J. League clubs. Clubs like Kashima, Sendai and Mito suffered damage to their stadiums and other buildings so it took them time to restore training facilities.

"We are also glad that J. League sides, together with all 37 clubs from divisions one and two, worked tremendously hard to resume the league as quickly as possible. This is a giant step forward in making this year's league successful.

"Despite all the difficulties facing them after the earthquake, our four clubs have worked to their utmost in Asian competitions and we look forward to more brilliant performances and results."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter praised the Japanese peoples' "powers of recovery" before the resumption of the league on Saturday.

Ogura added: "The message we received from Mr. Blatter before the resumption and his concern about the situation of Japan have touched us deeply. We are very grateful to FIFA's support for the reconstruction of Japan's football. Japan has received a lot of encouragement and support from around the world."

A charity match was organised featuring the country's stars in March to raise funds, as the tsunami caused extreme damage to a number of clubs and facilities.

"In the coastal areas of north-eastern Japan, playgrounds were damaged by the tsunami and children have lost their facilities. This, I think, is the biggest damage caused by the earthquake in footballing terms," Ogura remarked.

"But with the resumption of the J. League we aim to encourage people and we believe that Japan's football can be restored by everyone working together for the good of the game.

"The Japan Football Association defied the post-disaster hardship and difficulties to arrange the charity match with a dual goal: firstly to encourage the afflicted area through football and to raise funds for the victims.

"We needed to do something for them. Despite the tight time in preparation, the stadium was full of spectators [40,613 supporters]. We are very grateful to all the people who took part in this event. As a result, more than 100 million Japanese yen were collected. We believe our message was delivered."

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