The former head of China's scandal-plagued football league and other top soccer officials went on trial Tuesday as an effort to stamp out rampant corruption in the Chinese game reached a climax.
Xie Yalong, former chief of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), stood trial in the northeastern city of Dandong on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency said, becoming the highest-ranking former soccer official to face justice.
His successor as China's soccer boss, Nan Yong, was to face trial a day later in a court in the city of Tieling, also for accepting bribes. Both cities are in Liaoning province.
Dozens of league and club officials and referees have been ensnared for their parts in a match-fixing and gambling scandal exposed two years ago which has rocked Chinese soccer by lifting the lid on deep-rooted corruption.
The exposure of widespread betting on games, match-fixing, and crooked referees combined with poor performances by China's national squad to make football a laughing stock among increasingly indifferent Chinese fans.
Xinhua said the court in Dandong also began the trials of Wei Shaohui, former manager of the Chinese national soccer team, and Li Dongsheng, former head of the CFA's referee committee.
Meanwhile, the court in Tieling will also try four former Chinese internationals -- Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin and Li Ming -- on Wednesday, the news agency added.
A staffer at the court in Dandong who declined to be identified confirmed Xie's trial started Tuesday but said he did not know when a verdict would be delivered.
AFP calls to the court in Tieling went unanswered.
A CFA spokesman declined comment.
A court in February sentenced two top former CFA officials to more than a decade in jail each.
The CFA's ex-deputy chief Yang Yimin was convicted of accepting bribes worth 1.25 million yuan ($200,000) from about 20 clubs to fix fitness test results and sentenced to 10 and a half years, state media said.
Zhang Jianqiang, the former director of the association's referee committee, received a 12-year jail term for taking bribes worth a total of 2.73 million yuan on 24 occasions, reports said.© ANP/AFP