Volcano forces European soccer teams to scramble
AP Sports Writer
LONDON — The English soccer clubs Liverpool and Fulham are among the sports teams forced to scramble because of the ash cloud from Iceland's volcano.
Their Europa League semifinals will proceed as planned Thursday, but both Premier League clubs have had to do some improvising because of the airport closings across much of Europe.
The chaos also took a toll on women's soccer, tennis, boxing, motorcycling and marathoning.
Although travel restrictions in northern England will be lifted early Tuesday, Liverpool has decided not to wait. The team plans to head to Bordeaux by rail and road before taking a flight from southwest France to Spain for the first leg of its semifinal against Atletico Madrid.
Fulham said Monday it has a "contingency plan" to get its players to Germany in time for its game against Hamburg.
In the Champions League, Barcelona has arrived in Milan after a grueling two-day road trip for its semifinal at Inter Milan on Tuesday.
"It's not the ideal way to travel to Milan," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said.
A women's soccer game between Sweden and Germany, scheduled for Thursday, was canceled after the Swedes were unable to arrange a return trip from Dresden in time to play domestic league matches.
Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby was disappointed his team was unable to play a final warmup before European Championship qualifiers in June.
"We miss our dress rehearsal, but primarily the players miss out on an important experience," Dennerby said. "That is really frustrating."
An under-23 exhibition between England and Sweden scheduled for the same day also has been canceled.
In tennis, Japan asked the International Tennis Federation to postpone a Fed Cup playoff against Slovenia. The Japanese team had been scheduled to leave Sunday for the April 24-25 promotion/relegation playoff in Maribor. The Japan Tennis Association requested the postponement Monday.
"At the moment, we are working under the assumption that all ties will go ahead as scheduled," the ITF said in a statement to The Associated Press. "But there may be a need to postpone the start of some ties if travel disruptions delay teams from reaching their destinations."
Japan also has had problems with the MotoGP motorcycle world championship. Officials at the Motegi circuit north of Tokyo said Monday the April 25 race, the second of 17 MotoGP events, has been postponed until Oct. 3.
The volcano also caused logistical problems for Saturday's super middleweight WBC title fight in Herning, Denmark, between champion Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler.
Froch is traveling from his native England and is to arrive on Tuesday, although promoters aren't quite sure how that will happen. The short distance to Denmark means Froch could go by helicopter, private plane or car and boat.
"The fight is definitely on," said Johannes Berendt, a spokesman for promoter Sauerland Event. "We've been looking at different modes of transportation and we'll make sure Froch gets here in good time."
In track, Olympian Abdellah Falil of Morocco withdrew from the Boston Marathon after his trans-Atlantic flight was repeatedly canceled. The absence of several Kenyan pacemakers from Sunday's Vienna Marathon affected race times.
"The pacemakers were supposed to go to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles)," said Henry Sugut, who won in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 40 seconds. "But the last one dropped out at 23 kilometers (14.3 miles). No one pushed the pace after that."