Eleven people, including former top officials of the Chinese soccer association, club managers, referees, and former national team players, were sentenced by Chinese courts Wednesday for accepting bribes and fixing matches.
On Wednesday a court in the city of Dandong sentenced Xie Yalong, who served as vice chairman of the Chinese soccer association, to a ten and a half year prison term for taking 1.36 million yuan (about $214,000) in bribes.
Xie’s case was closely watched because his lawyers claimed in an April court hearing that his confessions were obtained through the use of physical torture and sleep-deprived interrogation techniques.
When prosecutors in the April hearing asked Xie why he had confessed to crimes that he did not commit, Xie said he wanted to live to tell the truth so that his son would know what kind of person he really was.
The court on Wednesday dismissed Xie’s torture claims after prosecutors presented evidence that convinced the court that no torture was involved in the case.
Ten other people were sentenced on Wednesday, including two former senior officers of the Chinese soccer association, Na Yong and Wei Shaohui, both receiving ten and a half year prison terms for taking bribes of 1.19 million yuan and 1.23 million yuan, respectively.
Four former national team players, Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin, and Li Mingyuan, were also sentenced Wednesday to prison terms between five and six years for each taking two million yuan ($317,000) bribes to help fix the results of a professional match between teams from Shanghai and Tianjin. All four players are fined 500,000 yuan, or $79,000 for their crimes.
The harsh sentences are part of a government effort to clean up a system that has long been tainted with corruption. So far, 59 people have been convicted in a series of investigations that began in September 2009.
Match-fixing and corruption have made it difficult for talented soccer players to emerge from the system. China’s national team routinely loses to Japan and South Korea, and is ranked an embarrassing 73 by FIFA behind countries like Haiti and Honduras.
Chinese soccer fans have long hoped to see China qualify for another World Cup, and this latest clamp down on corruption have given some die hard soccer fans reasons to celebrate.