Former China player sentenced to death

BEIJING - A former China youth international football player has been sentenced to death with two years' reprieve for killing a man over gambling debts, local media reported on Thursday.

Wen Junwu, 30, who played for the national Under-20 team and a top league club in Guangzhou 10 years ago, pleaded guilty to murder and theft, the China Daily said.

The midfielder lost nearly all his money gambling after being expelled by his then club Guangzhou Apollo together with the coach and other three players suspected of collusion with gambling groups in 1999.

Failing to pay a debt of about 80,000 yuan ($11,720), Wen and other two friends stabbed the man they owed the money to in June last year and stole more than 1,000 yuan ($150), the court heard.

In the last two years, several Chinese football players have been involved in serious crimes. Two Xiamen players were stabbed by a taxi driver, a former national striker was attacked in Shenzhen and a Dalian midfielder was stabbed and wounded on his way to visit his father.

A two-year reprieve means the death sentence can be commuted into life imprisonment after two years of good behaviour.