(FILES) This file photo, taken on March 20, 2009, shows Nan Yong, then Vice President of the Chinese Football Association, during the sponsorship signing ceremony of the Super League of the Chinese Football Association in Beijing in 2009. – Allegations of organized gambling, crooked referees and game manipulation had followed sport in the world's most populous country for years. (Photo by LIU JIN / AFP)
When Tianjin Tianhai Rafael Benitez & # 39; Dalian Yifang surprisingly beat 5-1 to stay in the Chinese Super League in November, disgruntled fans quickly claimed corruption – the legacy of a troubled past that divided into 10 years ago The scandal exploded.
Benitez, who led Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League title, was at a loss about one of the worst defeats in his coaching career and said, "This is a game I don't quite understand."
Despite fan complaints to the Chinese Football Association (CFA), no case was submitted and there is no evidence of misconduct.
But the haste with which some supporters claimed game manipulation was evidence that deep scars remain, a decade after a massive transplant crackdown that has entangled a number of leading figures in Chinese football.
Allegations of organized gambling, crooked referees and game manipulation had followed the sport in the world's most populous country for years.
In connection with the poor performance of the national team, the fans were disillusioned, the number of visitors suffered and the sponsors fled.
In this climate, in January 2010 Nan Yong, chief of the CFA, and two other high-ranking CFA personalities were confiscated by the police on charges of bribery and match-fixing.
When the police raided a Beijing Nan villa, they discovered gold, diamonds and watches, which he confessed to being accepted by clubs and referees.
In an extended corruption investigation, numerous CFA officials, club managers, referees, players and agents were interviewed in the following months.
According to some, the move was at the behest of Xi Jinping, then the country's vice president, who has since become China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
Xi is committed to making China a leading football power.
"It is an open secret that the chaos in Chinese football is not due to the fact that (only) one rotten egg spoils the whole pudding," the state-run China Daily said in January 2010, urging an overhaul.
CFA officials routinely repaired games, including national team and league games, by buying players or referees, according to state media.
According to reports, some CFA officials also accepted withdrawals from players who wanted to be in the national team – a practice that was also widespread at club level.
In February 2010, Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals – which was later renamed Guangzhou Evergrande and won eight championship titles and two Asian crowns – and Chengdu Blades were relegated for paying bribes.
Referees also disappeared into police custody, including Lu Jun, who officiated at the 2002 World Cup and the Olympic Games and was nicknamed "Golden Whistle".
Wei Di, who replaced the dismissed Nan at the head of the CFA, threatened to cancel the 2010 season and said: “Our goal is to clean up Chinese football, we cannot allow this cancer to remain in the body. "
In autumn 2010, the dragnet expanded and investigations into Nan's predecessor Xie Yalong were initiated.
Xie later told a court that the police tortured him with electric batons, beat him, and poured water on him during the interrogation. You contested the claims.
Next came the arrest of Lou Shifang, the former general manager of Shanghai Shenhua, who won the championship title in 2003. The crown was then withdrawn.
The 2010 season took place, but towards the end the halftime was extended from 15 to 30 minutes so that the referees and players could not correct the results of the games, so that the second half could start at the same time.
FIFA was unaffected by the agreement.
"This type of behavior represents a change in the rules of the game and is obviously a violation of the rules," it said.
"Golden Whistle" silenced
In the following years, a number of top-class Chinese soccer figures were locked up.
"Golden Whistle" Lu was one of the first to be convicted, along with three other top referees, in February 2012 for accepting cash to repair seven league games. He was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
Former CFA bosses Nan and Xie were each detained for about 10 years. Nan would transform herself in prison as the inventor and author of novels.
By February 2013, 33 people had been excluded from Chinese football for life. 25 five-year bans were handed over; and at least 12 clubs were punished, some of which were dissolved.
Chinese football has since grown in importance at club level, and large investments by Chinese companies and tycoons attract a flood of overseas players and coaches.
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