September 14, 2010

Chinese former FA officials hauled in over betting scandal

China said Sunday it had formally launched investigations of three more former football officials including the ex-head of the Chinese Football Association in a widening gambling and match-fixing probe.

Authorities were investigating former CFA chief Xie Yalong, the national team's ex-manager Wei Shaohui, and Li Dongsheng, the former director of Chinese soccer's referee committee, the police ministry said in a statement.

State media had previously reported the three men had been taken into custody for questioning, but there had been no official confirmation.

China's professional leagues have been plagued with allegations of gambling, match-fixing and crooked referees for years.

That, coupled with the national side's poor performances, have long made the "beautiful game" a source of disappointment for diehard fans.

The ministry statement gave no details on any specific allegations against the men.

Early this year, the scandal exploded when Xie's successor Nan Yong and two of his top lieutenants at the CFA were arrested on bribe-taking and match-fixing charges. Scores of officials and referees have been detained.

State press reports had said Xie was taken earlier this month to the northeastern city of Shenyang, where the investigation is based, to be interrogated on his ties with Nan and his top aides.

The trials of Nan, former CFA vice head Yang Yimin and one-time head of CFA refereeing Zhang Jianqiang could be imminent as prosecutors have already handed over investigation documents to the courts, state media have reported.

Numerous reports had said Xie was unlikely to be implicated in the scandal.
A CFA spokesman could not be reached for comment by AFP.

Xie, a football outsider, served as CFA head from 2005-2009, when Nan oversaw the national team and professional league.

Xie had been tasked with cleaning up the professional league and bringing the national side back to prominence – tasks that largely went unfulfilled. He was replaced in 2009 by Nan, to the applause of the sporting press.

Nan served as CFA head for less than a year before he was arrested, reportedly for crimes that began early in his tenure at the association.

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