Chile cancels friendlies after earthquake

SANTIAGO - Chile has called of next week's double bill of friendlies against Costa Rica and North Korea after the massive earthquake which hit the country in the early hours of Saturday.

"Football cannot remain indifferent to the catastrophe which has hit our country and certainly not to the pain and tragedy of thousands of Chileans," soccer federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls said on his organisation's website.

The players said in a statement: "At this moment, it is more important to look after the country's urgent necessities. There will be time for football."

In a highly unusual move, Chile, who have qualified for their first World Cup since 1998, were due to host Costa Rica and North Korea on the same evening at the National Stadium.

Both of Wednesday's matches were listed as full internationals by governing body FIFA with coach Marcelo Bielsa saying he wanted to observe as many places as possible.

Last November, Chile's friendly away to Germany was cancelled after the European team's goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide.

One of the world's most powerful earthquakes in a century hammered Chile early on Saturday, killing more than 300 people as it toppled buildings.