New boss Wei vows to clean up league and boost national team
Wei Di, the newly-appointed Chinese soccer chief, vowed on Tuesday to step down from the position if he can't deal with the problems afflicting the sport.
"I think the only way to win back the public's trust is solid and consistent progress of the league, the national team and the development of the sport at the grassroots level. If I can't fulfill my duty, I will resign," Wei said.
Known for his toughness during his stint as the chief of aquatic sports, Wei listed a number of problems in the game and said match-fixing and gambling were the most serious ones.
"The professional league has suffered because of these problems. Soccer fraud was first exposed in 1997 and more matching fixing and gambling followed," Wei said during his first press conference since taking over the position as the executive vice-president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) on Jan 22.
"Everyone responsible for the sport should be blamed for the shame. I have to admit our management system and operation mechanisms are out of date in professional soccer and are the main reasons for the misconduct and scandals."
More than 20 officials, players and club managers, including Wei's predecessor, Nan Yong, and his deputy, Yang Yimin, have been arrested or detained over the past two months in a clampdown on gambling and match-fixing.
The CFA has long been slammed for its lack of effort in dealing with problems in the Chinese league.
It was even targeted by some fans and the media for allegedly playing a role in the deterioration of the scandal-ridden league, which was highlighted by the arrest of Nan.
However, the new boss defended the sport's ruling body, saying it was unreasonable to attack all due to the faults of some.
"Some people have made mistakes but it doesn't mean everyone in the association has problems," Wei said. "But we have to make some changes in the management system."
Due to the ongoing investigation, a question mark lingers over the opening date of the Chinese Super League(CSL)'s new season, which was scheduled to start next month.
Wei said the association has been preparing for the new season's kick-off step by step but admitted he could not control the schedule.
Delayed league or not, Wei is determined to develop the sport professionally in China.
"All sports, when conditions allow, will turn professional. Soccer was the first one in China when the professional league kicked off in 1994. Professionalism is the cornerstone of a sport. No successful pro league means no good national team," Wei said.
Meanwhile, Wei also clarified rumors that the CSL's Guangzhou Pharmaceutical FC and Zhejiang Greentown FC, who were exposed as being involved in match-fixing in the second division league in 2006, would start the new season with 15 points deducted.
"The rumor is totally rootless. The disciplinary committee of the CFA hasn't discussed it."
Apart from revitalizing the problem-plagued league, Wei has also set his sights on lifting the national teams.
"During my term of office I want to do something down to earth. I hope our men's national squad can return to the top level in Asia and our women's team can return to its place as a world-class side.