Football: China's former players face graft trial

Xie Yalong (inset), former chief of the Chinese Football Association, is on trial of bribe-taking charges.

BEIJING - China put four former players from its national football squad on trial Wednesday for fixing a domestic league match as a crackdown on rampant corruption in Chinese football neared its end game.

Also put on trial Wednesday for taking bribes was Nan Yong, the former head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

His trial came a day after court proceedings opened against his predecessor Xie Yalong on similar charges.

The trials mark the culmination of a campaign to root out entrenched graft in the Chinese game that has ensnared dozens of CFA and club officials, referees, and players accused of match-fixing, gambling and other misdeeds.

Exposed two years ago, the scandal has 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.

Xinhua said the players facing justice in a court in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang included two key performers on the Chinese national side that qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals, Qi Hong and Jiang Jin.

The pair are accused, along with their former national squad teammates Shen Si and Li Ming, of taking bribes to fix a 2003 Chinese domestic league game in which their team, Shanghai Guoji, lost 2-1 to Tianjin Teda, Xinhua said.

"The result sent their crosstown rival Shanghai Shenhua to the league title and prevented Tianjin from being relegated," it added.

The agency quoted unidentified sources saying the four players received bribes totaling 8 million yuan (S$1.59 million) for their parts in the scheme.

Xie and Nan are the highest-ranking officials yet charged.

Xie, 56, was charged in a court in the northeastern city of Dandong with 12 counts of accepting bribes, which totaled more than 1.7 million yuan, Xinhua said.

State media reported that Xie's defence team moved to have any confessions made by the CFA's ex-boss thrown out, alleging that they were obtained via torture including electric shock and beatings.

The agency said details on the case against Nan, who was being tried in the city of Tieling, would be released later on Wednesday.

AFP was not immediately able to confirm the Xinhua reports from the various courts.

Also being tried on Wednesday in Dandong was Li Dongsheng, former head of the CFA's referees committee, Xinhua said. He faces charges of bribery and embezzlement.

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