Kuala Lumpur Post

Sports

Former China coach Li Tie pleads guilty to taking over $10 million in bribes

BEIJING — Former China football coach and ex-Everton midfielder Li Tie pleaded guilty on Thursday to accepting over $10 million in bribes, a court said, part of a broader crackdown on corruption in Chinese football.

His former boss, the discredited Chinese Football Association chairman Chen Xuyuan, was jailed for life this week for taking bribes worth $11 million.

China’s legal system is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party and courts have a near-100 percent conviction rate in criminal cases.

Local journalists gathered in front of the court in central Hubei province where 46-year-old Li’s case was heard.

Li, who was China coach from January 2020 until December 2021, is accused of giving and taking bribes, as well as participating in match fixing, the Hubei court said in a statement Thursday.

Li accepted more than 77 million yuan ($10.7 million) in bribes from 2017 to 2021, including during his time working as coach for the Wuhan Zall club, the court said.

“Li Tie made his final statement, pleaded guilty and expressed remorse,” the court said, adding that a sentence would be announced at a later date.

Li, who played in the Premier League 34 times between 2002 and 2004, featured in a documentary aired by state broadcaster CCTV in January about widespread corruption in Chinese football.

CCTV regularly airs confessions by criminal suspects before they have appeared in court, a practice widely condemned by rights groups.

In the programme, Li said he had arranged nearly $421,000 in bribes to secure the head coach position, and helped to fix matches when he was a club coach in the Chinese Super League.

“I’m very sorry. I should have kept my head to the ground and followed the right path,” said Li.

“There were certain things that at the time were common practices in football.”

Li played nearly 100 games for China. — AFP