Soccer scandal claims more top scalps
A court in Tieling, Liaoning province, yesterday sentenced a top soccer official and a referee instructor to long jail terms for taking bribes and match-fixing.
The sentencing of Chinese Football Association former deputy head Yang Yimin and Zhang Jianqiang, a referee instructor and former director of the national women's soccer team, brings to 48 the number sentenced in a national crackdown on soccer corruption.
Yang, 56, was sentenced to 10 1/2 years and fined 200,000 yuan (HK$246,000) for accepting 1.25 million yuan in bribes.
His career in sports administration touched almost every aspect of soccer, from organising commercial games and selecting national team players to issuing referee licences and overseeing youth soccer.
These jobs enabled him to elicit bribes from more than 20 individuals and organisations on more than 40 occasions, seeking help or convenience as far back as 1997, the court was told during this trial.
'At first the bribes were 300 yuan or 500 yuan and I declined them all,' he told China Central Television in an earlier interview.
But, when the Shuntian club in Jiangsu province offered him US$10,000 to help players pass their physical examinations, he relented.
'Soccer is a vanity fair where a weak man sells his soul,' he said.
Zhang, who led China's women's soccer team to second place at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996 and a silver medal at the World Cup three years later, was convicted of taking 2.73 million yuan in bribes from eight clubs and two provincial government soccer management centres. He was jailed for 12 years and fined 250,000 yuan.
During his trial in December, he told judges that he fell in love with soccer at the age of eight. He also pleaded with them to consider his contribution to Chinese women's soccer if he were convicted, according to Xinhua
Neither Yang nor Zhang intended to appeal against their sentences.
The fates of infamous club executives have also gripped the mainland media and soccer fans.
Former Qingdao Hailifeng president Du Yunqi and former Liaoning Guangyuan general manager Wang Xin were sentenced to seven years in jail, while Wang Po, the ex-general manager of Shanxi Luhu, received eight years, for bribing government officials, fixing games and gambling.
Two days ago, in Dandong, also in Liaoning, nine people including China's 'Golden Whistle' Lu Jun, a referee lauded for his impartiality, were sentenced to up to seven years for bribery and match-fixing.
Lu, a 2000 Olympic and 2002 World Cup referee, was jailed for 51/2 years for accepting 810,000 yuan to fix seven matches in the top-flight domestic competition, the Chinese Super League (CSL).
China Football Association former chief Xie Yalong and his deputy Nan Yong await trial for bribery.
Mainland soccer, especially the CSL, has long been plagued with gambling, match-fixing scandals, crooked referees, corrupt administrators and violence on and off the pitch.
A national cleansing began in 2009, with the arrest of Guangdong Eagles general manager Zhong Guojian , and the sporting scandal turned into a political movement.