Manager: Match-fixing in China normal

BEIJING - Match-fixing in Chinese football is "normal" but the poor standard of play in domestic leagues makes it difficult to detect, according to a club manager arrested in a nationwide police probe.

Qingdao manager Liu Hongwei has been charged with accepting bribes to throw a match against Chengdu Blades in 2007, which helped the English-owned Sichuan club win promotion to the country's top flight.

Liu, whose arrest with Chengdu president Xu Hongtao and deputy You Kewei was reported in state media on Friday, said it might not have been obvious to the untrained eye that the match was fixed.

"The professionals might be able to see the flaws," Liu said in an interview with state-run CCTV. "But the professionals would have already known about many of these kinds of things in Chinese football. They are normal."

The Chengdu officials are alleged to have given Liu bribes of 500,000 yuan ($73,250) in cash and kind to throw the Jia A match on September 22, 2007, in which Qingdao fielded a second-string team.

"The playing standard of Chinese football is so poor that, even without us defending, they could not score a goal (in the first half). They were too anxious," Liu said.

Liu said he had made substitutions in the second half to weaken his team even further and Chengdu finally ran out 2-0 winners.

"Match-fixing is not that obvious," he said. "We sent on young substitutes, who were truly incapable. Even then it did not look that inconsistent (with normal standards)."

Liu said his players were in no position to object to the match being fixed.

"The players belonged to the club," Liu said. "They had to follow our arrangement."

The case is the second to be revealed through state media by a special police task force.

At least four officials were detained last month on suspicion of match-fixing and gambling, which is illegal in China, relating to another Jia A match in 2007 involving Guangzhou and Shanxi clubs.

The crackdown on corruption follows a string of comments this year by leading Communist Party officials - including President Hu Jintao - that Chinese football needed to clean up its act.

Chengdu Blades have been owned by English Championship club Sheffield United since January 2006.