Beijing. China put four former players from its national football squad on trial on Wednesday for fixing a domestic league match as a crackdown on graft in Chinese football neared its end game.
Also put on trial on Wednesday for taking bribes was Nan Yong, former head of the Chinese Football Association, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
His trial came a day after court proceedings opened against his predecessor, Xie Yalong, on similar charges. It marks the culmination of a campaign to root out rampant graft in the 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 the national squad to repel increasingly indifferent Chinese fans, threatening the future of the world’s most popular game in the 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 two players 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 ($1.3 million) for their parts in the scheme.
Xie and Nan are the highest-ranking officials charged so far.
Xie, 56, was charged in a court in the northeastern city of Dandong with 12 counts of accepting more than 1.7 million yuan in bribes. His lawyer said Xie pleaded guilty but alleged being tortured to extract a confession.
“Xie Yalong told the court he was tortured and that what he said before was false,” attorney Jin Xiaoguang said.