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Swine flu forces postponement of yet another CONCACAF tournament

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MEXICO CITY - All nine Mexican first-division football games this weekend will be played behind closed doors, a move aimed at stemming the spread of swine flu.

Three games last weekend were played without fans - matches around the capital - but the Mexican Football Federation said on Tuesday it's closing off all games with the outbreak continuing to spread.

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"This decision was made ... in full awareness of the health emergency confronting Mexico," the federation said.

The nine games are: Tecos-Pumas, Cruz Azul-Ciudad Juarez, Monterrey-America, Pachuca-Jaguares, Chivas-Puebla, Morelia-Atlas, Necaxa-Atlante, Toluca-Tigres, Santos-San Luis.

CONCACAF, football's governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, also said it's postponing its Beach Soccer Championship, which was scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Puerto Vallarta.

The announcement came a day after the organization cancelled the remainder of its under-17 tournament "to safeguard the health of players, officials and fans." The semifinals, featuring Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the United States, had been scheduled for Wednesday in the border city of Tijuana.

CONCACAF said it was evaluating different options with local authorities and has not set a new date for the beach championship.

Canada was among the six teams at the event.

Elsewhere, a weekend diving tournament was held without any fans, and NASCAR Mexico has called off this weekend's race in the central city of San Luis Potosi - also the site of a Canadian Tour golf event.

That event will be played, but two later ones were postponed by the tour Tuesday night.

The Yucatan Country Club Classic and the Iberostar Riviera Maya Open will be played on consecutive weeks later in the season, the tour said in a release.

"As it stands today, our players are in San Luis Potosi and the event will play as scheduled with strict safety precautions in place. However, we are constantly monitoring the situation and will take the necessary steps should circumstances change," commissioner Richard Janes said.

The effort to contain the swine flu outbreak was hitting Mexico's 18 first-division soccer clubs the hardest. Matches draw 200,000 to 300,000 fans each weekend.

Mexico sports newspaper Record estimated clubs could lose about US$2 million in ticket sales if all matches are closed. Clubs rely on ticket sales for the majority of their revenue.

Mexicans playing football abroad are also under scrutiny. Striker Carlos Vela was allowed to return to practice on Tuesday for English club Arsenal. He was kept out of Monday's practice over concerns about a visit of friends from Mexico.

Panic is evident.

On Tuesday, a Necaxa club official shrugged off reports that forward Alejandro Castillo had come down with swine flu. Team spokesman Rosendo Duhart Gonzalez said Castillo, a substitute player, was treated in a hospital for simple flu.

"He's feeling better ... and there's no way he had swine flu," the spokesman said.

Fans attending Wednesday's club friendly in Chicago between Mexico's America and the Chicago Fire will be greeted with hand sanitizers spread all around Toyota Park just outside Chicago.

"The Club America organization has followed all of the safety precautions and procedures required by Mexican authorities and they've fully co-operated to ensure the ongoing health of their team as they travel to the U.S., and of course, the safety of our fans," Fire president Dave Greeley said.

Mexican baseball league officials also announced on Tuesday that all games will be played behind closed doors until at least Thursday. The move involves games in Torreon, Minatitlan, Saltillo, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Nuevo Laredo.

Volleyball's world governing body said it was considering moving, postponing or cancelling the women's junior world championship set for Tijuana from July 16-25. FIVB official Theofanis Tsiokris said the group was "carefully considering the situation in Mexico and is analyzing all relevant issues."

Swine flu is suspected of killing more than 150 people in Mexico.

A regional basketball tournament to qualify teams for the world championship next year in Turkey may also be at risk. The 10-team tournament is set for Aug. 26-Sept. 6 in Mexico City and Mexicali.

"It's very early to say that the tournament's in doubt, but if the epidemic grows - obviously we're not going to put anyone at risk," said Horacio Murature, president of FIBA Americas.

CONCACAF also postponed the second leg of its Champions League final, which was scheduled for Wednesday in Cancun between Mexican clubs Cruz Azul and Atlante. The game will be played on May 12. Atlante won the first matchup 2-0.

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