China began trials today for some 60 national players, referees, coaches and other officials accused of involvement in match-fixing and gambling scandals that have caused disaffected fans to turn away from the sport.
Zhang Jianqiang (pictured), ex-director of the Chinese Football Association (CFA)'s referee committee, appeared in a court in the north-eastern city of Tieling on Monday, nine months after being arrested for match-fixing and bribery, Xinhua news agency said. Proceedings were closed to the public
Zhang faces two charges of "bribe-taking and bribery by non-public servants," the agency said.
The trials follow a two-year investigation into alleged match-fixing that spanned a period of years. Among those accused in the scandal were the former heads of China's soccer program, Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, who will face trial in the following days.
"Football corruption breached the country's law and tarnished the image of the sport as well as the healthy development of football in China, leading to a very bad impact on the game," the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said in a statement.
"Corruption exposed flaws in the administrative system and imperfections in the supervision mechanism."
Others to face trial are Wang Po, a former general manager of Chinese Super league club Shaanxi, on charges of bribe-taking and fraud, and Yang Yimin, former deputy director of the Chinese Football Administrative Center.
Several top referees including Lu Jun, a 2002 World Cup match official, would also face trial this week in Dandong, another city in China's north-east.
It was not clear how long the trials would last, and state media people.com said the verdicts would be announced at an appropriate but unspecified time.
Chinese football has been dogged by graft and match-fixing scandals for years, which along with crowd violence, led to fans turning away from the game in droves.
Supporters have also endured numerous frustrations with the national team, who failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup despite employing former Spain coach Jose Antonio Camacho to lead the team. China has only once appeared at the finals in 2002.
However, interest has returned at domestic level in recent weeks with big-spending Shanghai Shenhua signing French striker Nicolas Anelka from English Premier League side Chelsea this month. They followed that by appointing former France international Jean Tigana as coach on Sunday .comments