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New Chinese football chief elected after corruption probe

A new top leadership for China’s Football Association was announced on Monday, state media reported, following a corruption probe that has swept up some of the country’s biggest names in the sport.

Song Kai, formerly of Liaoning province’s sports bureau, will be the new CFA president, a short article in the People’s Daily newspaper said. 

The CFA also elected a new executive committee at the same meeting in Beijing.

Song’s predecessor, Chen Xuyuan, was formally charged with “accepting bribes” in September. 

A probe into Chen was announced in February by the government’s sport agency, which accused him at the time of “serious violations of discipline and the law”.

Former national team coach Li Tie was charged with corruption in August.

Fighting graft has long been a central theme of President Xi Jinping’s rule, with the Chinese leader waging a sweeping campaign since taking office that critics claim helps him purge political rivals.

Xi has described himself as a football fan and said he dreams of China hosting and winning a World Cup one day.

But after a boom period when clubs in China’s top domestic league signed foreign stars for exorbitant fees, many teams hit hard times with several — including former champions Jiangsu FC — going bust.

At Monday’s meeting, Song said the CFA would “be more united, work harder, and become more open, pure and courageous”, according to Chinese media. 

“It will push China’s football reform and development to a new level one step at a time,” he was quoted as saying.

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