Chile put its soccer on the back burner this week, but the International Tennis Federation originally opted to go ahead with the Davis Cup tie between the earthquake-shaken nation and Israel.

Now, the federation announced yesterday it would push back the start of the games from this Friday to Saturday to give Israel four days of practice in the host city.

"Postponing would have forced in the best case a rematch in Europe at a different date or a technical loss in the worst case," explained Javier Gonzalez, a sports journalist in Chile.

In contrast, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the president of Chile's soccer federation, wasted no time in canceling the national team's upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and North Korea as well as the weekly slate of league fixtures after a deadly 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the country.

"Football cannot remain indifferent to the catastrophe which has hit our country and certainly not to the pain and tragedy of thousands of Chileans," announced Mayne-Nicholls.

Besides the practical implications of trying to postpone the tie with Israel, the facts that the meet will take place in the northern city of Coquimbo, which was not affected by the earthquake and that the decision is out of the Chileans' hands, are also mitigating factors.

Still, the hosts are none too happy.

"My head is not in tennis, but we have to play," said Chilean team member Nicolas Massu. "I would have preferred postponement."

The Chilean Tennis Federation responded in a statement Tuesday: "As a federation we reiterate our solidarity with the suffering of our country that we cannot abstract, and we hope that in the event of having to play, we can deliver a great joy to Chileans, to give us energy to keep fighting and move forward."