Japan to host Club World Cup despite crisis

TOKYO - Japan will host December's Club World Cup as scheduled, FIFA said on Monday, dismissing fears the country's nuclear crisis could force a switch of venue.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter met Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to pledge support for the relief efforts following the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"We are confident Japan can organise this competition," Blatter told reporters in Tokyo. "We look forward with confidence and optimism that this tournament will be a good one."

Blatter delivered his verdict after receiving assurances that teams and officials would not be exposed to radiation from the crippled nuclear plant 150 miles north of Tokyo.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and giant tsunami left 28,000 dead or homeless, devastating large areas of Japan's north-east.

The 15-metre tsunami wave tore though the Fukushima power plant, triggering fears of a Chernobyl-style meltdown and as a result also plunged sporting events into chaos.

Blatter told Japan's PM Kan the December 8-18 Club World Cup would go ahead as planned to help give victims of the disaster courage to rebuild their lives.

"Through football there is hope," said Blatter, who is battling to defend FIFA from accusations of corruption over World Cup votes.

"What (the disaster victims) need now is to smile after the tragedy."

Blatter also pledged money to help with the reconstruction work in the tsunami-ravaged areas.

"Money from the FIFA emergency fund will be available to Japan for reconstruction efforts," he said. "I expressed to the PM my sympathy and our solidarity with the Japanese people in these troubled times."

Radiation leaking into the air and sea has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents near the nuclear facility and could take well into next year to contain.

Japan hosted the lucrative Club World Cup, involving the champions of FIFA's six confederations, from 2005-08 before it went to the United Arab Emirates for two years.