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Former China football head pleads guilty to bribery

The former head of China’s top football body Chen Xuyuan pleaded guilty to bribery on Monday, Beijing’s state media said, as an anti-corruption drive sweeps up once-major figures in the sport. 

Chen — who as boss of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) once promised to turn a page on the corruption scandals that have plagued the sport — was placed under investigation last February for “serious violations of discipline and the law”.

On Monday the prosecution accused him of taking more than 81 million yuan ($11.3 million) in bribes in exchange for helping with “project contracting, investment and operation”, among other matters.

Chen pleaded guilty and “expressed remorse”, state news agency Xinhua said.  

The trial was adjourned, with judgement to be announced at a later, unspecified, date.

Chen was indicted in September for corruption, and earlier this month appeared in a televised documentary confessing to having accepted large sums from those wishing to get in his good graces.

Former Chinese national football team coach Li Tie also appeared in the documentary, in which he said he paid Chen two million yuan in bribes to secure his job.

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

“Fans can accept the fact that the state of Chinese football is bad,” Chen said in the documentary. 

“But they cannot forgive corruption,” he added. 

“I would like to deeply apologise to all Chinese fans.”

Football fan President Xi Jinping once said he wanted China not only to host the World Cup, but win it.

But that goal appears further away than ever after the corruption probe and the national team’s worst Asian Cup performance in history this month.

Around 10 senior leaders and executives of the CFA have been brought down in recent years, including Chen.

Xinhua said that it understood two other sports officials’ bribery cases had been heard by courts on Monday, including that of Chen Yongliang, former CFA executive deputy secretary-general. 

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