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Ex-Chinese Football Boss Chen Xuyuan Gets Life Sentence For Bribery

A former president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), Chen Xuyuan, has been sentenced to life in prison for bribery, as per the country’s state media.

In January, he admitted to taking bribes totaling 81 million yuan ($11.2 million; £8.9 million).

An anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by President Xi Jinping has targeted various sectors, including sports, finance, and the military.

In football, more than a dozen coaches and players have come under scrutiny.

The trial at the Intermediate People’s Court of Huangshi in central China unveiled Chen’s illegal dealings from 2010 to 2023, spanning his tenure as president and chairman of Shanghai International Port Group.

Prosecutors revealed that Chen received money and valuables in exchange for facilitating project contracts and organizing sports events.

The court’s verdict stated that his actions had inflicted “significant harm” on China’s football development, according to the state-controlled Xinhua news agency.

State media reported that three other senior football officials were also sentenced on Tuesday, receiving prison terms ranging from eight to 14 years for corruption.

Earlier this year, Li Tie, a former Everton midfielder and head coach of China’s national men’s soccer team, admitted to match-fixing and offering bribes, including to Chen, in a bid to secure China’s top coaching position.

China’s foreign ministry confirmed that South Korea’s Son Jun-ho, who played for Shandong Taishan, was detained in connection with a bribery case. South Korea’s foreign ministry later stated that he had been released from custody.

President Xi has previously expressed his aspiration to transform China into a football powerhouse. In 2011, he outlined his ‘three wishes’ for Chinese football: qualifying for the World Cup, hosting the tournament, and ultimately winning it.

In the last decade, Chinese Super League clubs have splurged on top international players like Brazilian midfielder Oscar, former Argentina forward Carlos Tevez, and Belgian international Axel Witsel.

However, this led to clubs amassing debts, prompting the CFA to implement a salary cap in 2020. The move aimed to redirect investments towards nurturing local talent rather than relying solely on imported stars.

Currently, only a handful of foreign players remain in the league.

The recent arrests of prominent football figures have dealt a blow to China’s football aspirations.

Despite these setbacks, domestic football maintains its popularity in China, and Chen’s corruption scandal has stunned fans.

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