Peru, Czechs to play friendlies in disaster-hit Japan

TOKYO - Peru and Czech Republic will travel to disaster-hit Japan for friendly soccer internationals in June after receiving reassurances over potential health risks amid the current nuclear crisis.

Last month's deadly earthquake and tsunami left 28,000 people dead or missing in northeast Japan, also triggering a nuclear crisis at a power plant north of Tokyo.

Stadiums suffered damage while the J-League has been forced to cram a month's worth of games into three weeks in the stifling July heat to make up the backlog of lost matches.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) told Reuters on Tuesday that electrical output would be reduced by 10 to 30 per cent to reduce the strain on the national grid.

Peru and the Czechs have agreed to travel after being reassured by the JFA that the players and officials would be in no danger.

"We gave the relevant data about radiation levels and aftershocks," JFA General Secretary Kozo Tashima told local media. "They are convinced it is safe to come."

Asian champions Japan were scheduled to play home friendlies against Montenegro and New Zealand in late March but both teams pulled out following the disaster.

Japan will now play Peru in Niigata on June 1 and the Czechs in Yokohama on June 7, the JFA said.

Both matches will be played at night under floodlights, although the JFA said lighting away from the pitch would be dimmed or switched off to conserve energy.

Japan's government has called on soccer and baseball, among other professional sports, to save electricity as workers battle to avoid a catastrophic meltdown at the Fukushima plant some 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

Japan's national soccer team also face an embarrassing player shortage when they play as guests in July's Copa America in Argentina. With J-League clubs unable to release players with the season postponed following the March 11 quake and tsunami and European sides refusing to play ball, Japan could have to call up a squad made up largely of university students.