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Updated: April 20, 2010 12:03 IST

Volcano causes travel mayhem in European sports

AP
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A man carries a dog through St Pancras International train station in London, on Monday. Photo: AP.
A man carries a dog through St Pancras International train station in London, on Monday. Photo: AP.

English football clubs Liverpool and Fulham are among the sports teams affected by the ash cloud from Iceland’s volcanic eruption.

Both clubs’ Europa League semi-finals will go ahead as planned on Thursday, but the Premier League pair have had to revise their travel plans because of the closure of airports across much of Europe.

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 semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

Fulham said on Monday it too has “a contingency plan” to get its players to Germany in time for its game against Hamburg.

The disruption could have been even worse.

A women’s international between Sweden and Germany also scheduled for Thursday was cancelled after the visitors were unable to plot a return journey from Dresden in time to play domestic league matches.

Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby was disappointed that the team would not now get a final warm-up before European Championship qualifiers in June.

“We miss our dress rehearsal, but primarily the players miss out on an important experience. That is really frustrating,” Dennerby said. “It is really unfortunate to miss a meet against top nation Germany at their home ground and in front of a large audience.”

An under-23 friendly between England and Sweden scheduled for the same day has also been cancelled.

Barcelona has arrived in Milan after a gruelling two-day road trip for its Champions League semi-final at Inter Milan on Tuesday.

“It’s not the ideal way to travel to Milan,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said.

A diving World Series event due to be held on Friday and Saturday in Sheffield in northern England was rescheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in the Mexican coastal city of Veracruz due to the flight restrictions in Europe.

The start of the European Championships artistic gymnastics being staged simultaneously in Birmingham, England, and Varna, Bulgaria, was pushed back a day to Thursday.

Tennis has also been affected.

Japan is more than 5,300 miles (8,500 kilometers) from the eruption but its tennis association has asked the International Tennis Federation to postpone a Fed Cup playoff against Slovenia.

Japan’s players had been scheduled to leave Sunday for the April 24-25 promotion/relegation playoff in Maribor but the Japan Tennis Association asked for the postponement on Monday because of uncertainty over when they can travel.

“The ITF is monitoring the situation,” the ITF said in a statement to The Associated Press. “At the moment, we are working under the assumption that all ties will go ahead as scheduled but there may be a need to postpone the start of some ties if travel disruptions delay teams from reaching their destinations.”

Japan has also had problems with its round of the MotoGP motorcycle world championship. Officials at the Motegi circuit north of Tokyo said on Monday the April 25 race, the second of 17 MotoGP events, has been postponed until October 3.

The volcano has also caused logistical problems for Saturday’s super middleweight WBC title fight in Herning, Denmark, between champion Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler.

Froch is travelling from his native England and is due to arrive on Tuesday, although promoters aren’t quite sure how that will happen yet.

The short distance to Denmark means that Froch could take a helicopter, private plane or even go by car and boat.

“The fight is definitely on,” Johannes Berendt, a spokesman for promoter Sauerland Event, said. “We’ve been looking at different modes of transportation and we’ll make sure Froch gets here in good time.”

And athletics has not escaped unscathed.

Moroccan Olympian Abdellah Falil withdrew from the Boston Marathon after his trans-Atlantic flight was repeatedly cancelled, while 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.”

On the amateur level, the U.S. team withdrew from the world youth boxing championships in Azerbaijan. The start of the tournament already had been delayed until Sunday, but USA Boxing said Monday the team still would not have been able to arrive on time.

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