Police Detain At Least 4 in Match-fixing Crackdown
    2009-11-25 20:07:24     Xinhua      Web Editor: Xu Fei

The number of fans dwindles in the domestic leagues, which were already rocked by match-fixing scandals involving five second tier clubs in 2001.

In that case, top Chinese referee Gong Jianping was sentenced to 10 years in jail after convicted of receiving bribes in January 2003 and died of cancer six months later. No more criminal charges were made despite that some club owner openly admitted sending bribes.

Xinhua sportswriter Yang Ming said he had quit watching Chinese soccer matches after he wrote the book "Black Whistles" in 2002.

"During my investigation, I realized results of so many matches were predetermined. I felt I had been fooled," said Yang, who became the first Chinese journalist to receive the Ronald Reagan Media Award in 2004 for his book.

Although China launched professional leagues 16 year ago, the most popular sport seemed to have lost its charm as the "beautiful game" in the most populous country.

The number of registered male footballers dropped from the peak of 650,000 15 years ago to 50,000 last year, the Liaoning-based Peninsula Morning Post reported.

National team coaches only had a small pool of 400 players to choose for their 2012 London Olympic team, it said.


Compared with the previous efforts, mostly from the CFA, China showed firmer determination this time to cure the "cancer" through a unified task force.

A coordination group was formed in March by representatives from 12 government departments such as the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, People's Bank of China, State Administration of Taxation and the General Administration of Sport. 

Chinese media applauded the move and pitched in commentaries calling for "complete eradication of the dark and evil forces".

"If Gong Jianping's case just touched the tip of the iceberg, this time the Ministry of Public Security aimed at the entire iceberg of the dark and evil forces...hopefully can destroy them," read a Qingdao Daily commentary.

The national newspaper People's Daily called for "a real change in Chinese soccer in the early winter of 2009."

But the real change will not come even if match-fixing and gambling no longer exists unless the system is changed, according to Qilu Evening News.

"Chinese soccer faces an opportunity of revitalization with the crackdown on soccer corruption, but the game can't be truly revitalized unless fundamental changes are made to the system," said the newspaper based in Shandong Province.

Zhang Lu, vice chairman of newly crowned CSL champions Guo'an club, agreed.

"Eliminating match-rigging and gambling is the first step. I think the second step should be establishing a regulation and management system in the near future," said Zhang.

The clubs were often at odds with the CFA over decisions since the CSL company was founded in 2005. The CFA holds over one third of the company's shares with each of the 16 clubs having 4 percent.

In the long run, according to Zhang, to increase the participation in the game will be vital.

"We must start with the kids, get more kids to play soccer. It may take 20 years (to rejuvenate Chinese soccer)," he added.

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