The former head of China’s scandal-plagued football association and other top officials went on trial Tuesday as an effort to stamp out rampant corruption in the Chinese game reached a climax.
The former head of China’s scandal-plagued football association and other top officials went on trial as an effort to stamp out rampant corruption in the Chinese game reached a climax.
Xie Yalong, former chief of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), went on trial in the northeastern city of Dandong for taking bribes, state media said, becoming the highest-ranking former soccer official to face justice.
His successor as China’s soccer boss, Nan Yong, was to face trial a day later in a court in the city of Tieling, also for accepting bribes. Both cities are in Liaoning province.
Dozens of CFA and club officials, referees, and players have been ensnared for their parts in a match-fixing and gambling scandal exposed two years ago which has rocked Chinese soccer by lifting the lid on deep-rooted corruption.
The revelations have combined with poor play by China’s national squad to repel increasingly indifferent Chinese fans, threatening the future of the world’s most popular game in the world’s most populous country.
Xie, 56, was charged with 12 counts of taking more than 1.7 million yuan ($273,000) in bribes, Xinhua said. Citing Xie’s attorney, Xinhua said he denied some of the accusations.
Xinhua said the court in Dandong also began the trials of Wei Shaohui, former manager of the Chinese national soccer team, and Li Dongsheng, former head of the CFA’s referee committee.
Wei was accused of taking 1.23 million yuan in bribes, including 100,000 yuan from a player, Yan Feng, to help secure a spot on the national team.
The court in Tieling will also try four former Chinese internationals — Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin and Li Ming — on Wednesday for taking bribes, the news agency added.
Xinhua gave no further details on charges faced by the accused.
A staffer at the court in Dandong who declined to be identified confirmed Xie’s trial started Tuesday but said he did not know when a verdict was expected.
AFP calls to the court in Tieling went unanswered, and a CFA spokesman declined comment.
Both Xie and Nan were arrested in 2010 as a probe into the situation gained pace.
A court in February sentenced two top former CFA officials to more than a decade in jail each in the scandal.
The CFA’s ex-deputy chief Yang Yimin was convicted of accepting bribes worth 1.25 million yuan from about 20 clubs to fix fitness test results and sentenced to 10 and a half years, state media said.
Zhang Jianqiang, the former director of the association’s referee committee, received a 12-year jail term for taking bribes worth a total of 2.73 million yuan on 24 occasions, reports said.
Several club officials were also given lengthy terms, among them Wang Po, the former manager of a now defunct Tibetan side, who was sentenced to eight years for taking bribes and racketeering.
Former Qingdao Hailifeng president Du Yunqi was given eight years for racketeering and other charges, while Wang Xin, former head coach of Liaoning Guangyuan, was sentenced to seven years and fined 3.35 million yuan for bribery and gambling.
Corruption has long blighted football in Asia, with the Asian Football Confederation describing match-fixing as a “cancer” that is destroying the game.
Efforts to clamp down on illegal sports betting in Asia have seen hundreds of people arrested and millions of dollars confiscated, notably in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
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