Chile curtails league after quake

SANTIAGO - Chilean clubs decided on Saturday to suspend this year's two championships and play a single tournament as a result of the devastation caused by a massive earthquake in Chile.

An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit central and southern Chile a week ago, causing hundreds of deaths and widespread damage.

"This season we will hold only one national championship ...(which) will be suspended on May 9 to give way to the Chile team's preparation for the World Cup in South Africa," the Chilean football federation (ANFP) said on its website.

"We also resolved to wait until next Friday to decide when to resume play."

ANFP president Harold Mayne-Nicholls said: "In no way do we want to modify the (Chile team's) programme because at this time the national team is not only important in footballing terms but essentially for the morale of the country."

Clubs in the southern half of the country, including first division Huachipato, Universidad de Concepcion and Nublense, have been badly affected. Some foreign players have left the country, Chilean players and their families have suffered losses and stadiums have been damaged.

Chile has since 2002 held two championships every year, the Apertura (opening) and Clausura (closing), with two separate champions. Each is equivalent to a single round in a traditional championship with teams facing each other once, at home in one and away in the other.

The Apertura which kicked off last month had reached the sixth round of matches before the earthquake.