The Chinese football corruption trials have restarted in Liaoning province and there’s a lot to report out of those trials. It is an embarrassing, interesting, and crazy situation that hopefully will bring about the close of a period that Chinese football hopes is completely in the past.
We at haven’t really touched the corruption issue, it’s a tough one to deal with. As people who hope to promote the game, and most of all as fans, stories of corruption are painful to deal with. The reality is that the corruption that is involved is complex.
Part of the complexity is due to a number of trials going on at once. Trials are taking place across Liaoning province (in Dandong, Tieling, and Shenyang) and include multiple former Vice-Chairmen of the CFA as well as former players.
Of the news that has come out so far:
- Xie Yalong, one of the former heads of the CFA, has claimed his confession was coerced by the police, that he was tortured and his family was threatened.
- Xie’s accused of taking over US$270,000 in bribes, including bribes from Nike officials to secure a sponsorship deal with the Chinese Super League.
- Not to keep pounding on Xie, but he also supposedly took money from former national team manager Zhu Guanghu to allow him to continue coaching the national team.
- Former national teamers (and members of the 2002 World Cup squad) Qi Hong, Shen Si, and Jiang Jin are accused of taking over US$1.2 million in bribes to fix a match and guarantee Shanghai Shenhua would win the league title.
- Former national teamers Yan Feng, Zhang Yonghai and Wang Xiao are said to have given watches as gifts to earn spots on the national team roster. Humorously, former national team captain Zheng Zhi is said to have given a Louis Vuitton suitcase to secure a spot in the national team.
The giving of gifts for a national team spot doesn’t really bother me. The reality is that it’s a part of Chinese culture that any expat who has been here for awhile can talk about. Want your kid to do well in school? Make sure his/her teacher gets a nice sized red envelope and/or a good gift. Require a major procedure or surgery at the hospital? Time to buy something nice for the doctor. Unfortunately, this sort of grey area gift giving has become all too common in China these days.
The same goes for corrupt officials taking bribes for business deals, which is why the accusations regarding Xie taking bribes from Nike are unsurprising and not all that bothersome (though this may lead to trouble for the global footwear giants). I can’t say I encourage this type of behavior, but the reality is that it does very little to impact the game or the fans.
However, the same can’t be said for the match-fixing that the players, Xie, and Nan Yong are accused of taking part in. Xie’s accusations of torture are startling and a lot of the news that is coming out has to be filtered, what is true and what are attempts to cooperate and commute sentences? Unlike previous scandals, the media is on top of this one and the government appears to be making a point of its openness. Also, if the sentences handed down earlier this year in similar corruption cases involving lower level officials and referees are any indication, the courts mean to make an example out of these individuals.
Whether or not it will make a difference is still anybody’s guess, but here’s hoping that these trials are a step in the right direction to eradicating corruption from Chinese football.
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