Two former heads of China's football association were sentenced on Wednesday to 10 1/2 years in prison each for taking bribes, as part of a sweeping crackdown on corruption in the sport.

Xie Yalong and his successor, Nan Yong, were also ordered to pay $31,700 in fines by courts in the northeastern cities of Tieling and Dandong.

The verdict against Xie, who was convicted of taking bribes worth $273,000, was closely watched since his lawyers have moved to have his confessions ruled inadmissible, claiming they were obtained by torture.


Xie said he confessed to some of the allegations only after being beaten and subject to electric shocks and other abuse. Police in Xie's case issued a denial to the torture allegations, although Chinese police are believed to frequently employ physical abuse to coerce confessions.

Nan had been accused of 17 counts of taking bribes worth $235,000.

Two other national association officials were also sentenced on Wednesday: Former national team manager Wei Shaohui also received 10 1/2 years for taking bribes; and former technical department director Li Dongsheng received nine years for bribery and embezzlement.

In other verdicts, four former national team players were sentenced to up to six years and fined $79,000 for taking bribes to help fix the result of a professional league game. Two local association and team officials were also given suspended two-year sentences for paying bribes.

The lengthy sentences represented a marked change of approach by authorities, which long overlooked match fixing among players and team officials.

Football is very popular in China, but the public has soured somewhat because of the bribery accusations, with corruption blamed for the relatively low standard of play in China.

China has made it to only one World Cup, in 2002, under Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic - Nan Yong's pick to lead the team - and are currently ranked 73rd in the world, sandwiched between Benin and Iraq.

Earlier trials of other football officials had resulted in sentences of up to 12 years.

Source: AP