Four former Chinese national team soccer players – (from right) Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin and Li Ming, stand trial in a Shenyang court in Liaoning Province. They were accused of accepting bribes for fixing games and were sentenced to between five and a half years and six years in prison. Photo: IC
A last-ditch campaign to clean up scandal-plagued Chinese soccer wrapped up Wednesday as another 11 people including former heads and several national team players were put behind bars.
Nan Yong, former director of the Chinese Football Administrative Center (CFAC) and vice chairman of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison for taking bribes worth more than 1.48 million yuan ($235,000) in a Tieling court in Liaoning Province.
At a different court in Dandong, Xie Yalong, Nan’s predecessor, was given the same term in prison for accepting bribes totaling 1.36 billion yuan.
Xie claimed during the court session in April that he had been tortured into confession, which was later denied by Liaoning police.
Both the former top officials of Chinese soccer were fined 200,000 yuan and told the courts they need to consult with their attorneys to decide whether to appeal the verdict.
Qi Hong and Shen Si, key players in China’s only trip to the World Cup in 2002, were among the four former internationals who received their punishments Wednesday. They were charged with taking a total of 8 million yuan to fix a domestic league game.
Shen was handed a six-year term while the others were sentenced to five and a half years.
To date, the national anti-graft war that started in 2009 has put a total of 56 high-level soccer officials, top players, famous referees and club officials in prison.
“The public didn’t realize the poor performance of Chinese football teams resulted from the deeply-rooted corruption until the crackdown started,” said Zhu Lijia, a professor who specializes in anti-corruption studies at the Chinese Academy of Governance. “Corruption has eroded the management system of Chinese soccer and this hard blow could be a good chance for the game and authorities to rebuild public trust.”
The campaign lasted two years and has shown the government’s determination to fight corruption not only in sports circles but also in other fields of society, judging from the harsh punishment imposed on the people involved, Zhu told the Global Times.
However, some believed that Wednesday’s verdicts do not mark an end to the fight against match-fixing, gambling, bribery and embezzlement that ravaged Chinese professional soccer leagues for over a dozen years.
Chinese well-known go chess master Nie Weiping was straightforward in pointing out that the crackdown was unfinished.
“It was not a thorough campaign. Many have been let off the hook,” the keen critic of Chinese soccer was quoted as saying by the Zhengzhou Evening News.
Chen Peide, former sports chief for Zhejiang Province, said it will take a long time to solve the problem, as the current system serves as a hotbed for corruption.
Under the current system, the CFA runs the professional leagues and supervises its own operations, which is regarded by many as the main reason for the widespread graft.
“Governments should dedicate themselves to building a fair and transparent management system and monitor it to ensure that corruption cases have no room to grow in the sports field,” said Zhu, adding that there is still hope for improvement in Chinese soccer.
Others who were sentenced Wednesday include Wei Shaohui, former Chinese national team captain, Li Dongsheng, former top technical chief in the CFAC and Gao Jian, former general secretary of the Chongqing Football Association.
Xinhua contributed to this story
Source: Global Times