Pair who said no to bribes praised

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2011, 12:00am


A magistrate praised two Hong Kong youth soccer stars for resisting bribes as he sent one of their teammates to a detention centre yesterday for trying to get them to throw a showpiece international game that left the government red-faced.

Sentencing Iu Wai, 20, Peter Law Tak-chuen said an attempt to fix a friendly game between Hong Kong and Russian youth sides last month was 'very serious' because it put a stigma on the city.

In a case that further embarrassed scandal-plagued local soccer administrators as well as the government, Iu had earlier pleaded guilty in Kowloon City Court to two counts of offering an advantage.

The game was arranged by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen during a visit to the city by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April in what was seen at the time as an important public-relations coup.

Law praised defender Chan Cham-hei and goalkeeper Chiu Yu-ming for resisting the temptation to take tens of thousands of dollars offered by Iu. They alerted the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Iu, an up-and-coming defender for Hong Kong Sapling club, who was also in the Hong Kong under-21 side, will serve up to 12 months under strict discipline in a sentence used as an alternative to prison for young offenders.

He was arrested when graft-busters raided the international match, attended by 5,000 spectators at Mong Kok Stadium on November 5. The Russians won 2-1.

Sentencing Iu, the magistrate said it was a tremendous privilege to represent Hong Kong and he lamented the possible end of Iu's promising soccer career.

'By making a big mistake, you have fallen from grace. That blow for you must be enormous,' Law said.

'[This] case is very serious. First, it was premeditated. Second, you recruited members for the syndicate. Third, you put temptation in front of your mates. Fourth, the boys were playing for Hong Kong and dealings of this sort must bring Hong Kong into disrepute,' he said.

Noting defence submissions that the opposition was an overpowering team and the result was predestined, Law said: 'We can afford to lose so long as the boys show sportsmanship. However, if it is a match played without integrity or dignity, it is not a match we can afford.'

Before sentencing Iu, the magistrate called for a report on his suitability for the detention centre. The time actually served depends on their progress.

Philip Lee Fai-lap, Sapling team manager, hoped that Iu's case would sent a warning to all young footballers, reminding them that they should stay clean.

The court heard earlier that Iu was approached by a man in Shenzhen who asked him to fix the match.

Iu set out to lure Chan and Chiu during a four-day training camp days before the match.

Last year, Iu was arrested but not charged when mainlander Yu Yang was jailed for 10 months for trying to fix a First Division match between Happy Valley and Fourway Rangers.