Players, officials tried for bribery

Updated: April 25, 2012, 8:45 AM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- Two former leaders of China's soccer association are among eight officials and players on trial for bribery in a major push to punish those who have tarnished the sport.

Courts in the northeastern province of Liaoning are hearing the cases of Xie Yalong and his successor, Nan Yong. Xie is accused of taking $273,000 in bribes from sports equipment manufacturers, professional clubs, and a former national team coach. Nan is accused of taking at least $160,000 in bribes.

Others on trial include former national team manager Wei Shaohui, former head of referees Li Dongsheng, and four former national team players.

Xie's lawyers moved to have his confessions ruled inadmissible, claiming they were obtained by torture.

He told the court that he had confessed to some of the allegations because someone had "forced him" under interrogation.

Xie's lawyer Jin Xiaoguang told the official website of People's Daily that the defendant confessed to crimes he did not commit "because he wanted to stay alive."

Chinese soccer has long been plagued by the bribing of coaches, players and officials by gambling syndicates. Those actions have been blamed for depressing the quality of play in China. China has made it to only one World Cup, in 2002, under Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic.

New anti-graft measures, stronger finances, and the import of expensive foreign talent have since lifted the China Super League, although current Chinese Football Association head Wei Di on Wednesday warned against backsliding.

"Lessons have been learned from the scandals, but similar cases might happen again in the future. So we must stay vigilant all along," Wei said in Beijing.

The anti-corruption sweep has already netted dozens of culprits, and in February, former CFA deputy chief Yang Yimin was sentenced to 10½ years in prison for accepting $200,000 from 20 different clubs. Another former head of referees, Zhang Jianqiang, was imprisoned for 12 years for taking $433,000 in bribes.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press