'Golden whistle' loses lustre on stand

Updated: 2011-12-22 07:40

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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Famous referee charged with taking bribes

BEIJING - The long-awaited trial over soccer corruption continued into its third day in a bitterly cold northeastern city on Wednesday, as millions of diehard fans pinned their hopes on the lawsuit to clean up one of the country's most beloved sports.

Lu Jun, the country's best known Chinese soccer referee who once officiated World Cup and Olympic Games and was dubbed "golden whistle", stood trial in an intermediate court in Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning province, facing charges of bribery-taking and match-fixing.

Lu admitted he fixed seven matches for four clubs and took 810,000 yuan ($128,000) between 1999 and 2003, but he argued that the money he received was not the reward for being partial during matches, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

He has returned the money after the national governing body of the sport pledged to crack down on match cheating.

Yi Shenghua, a Beijing-based lawyer, said Lu will face different charges and punishment if the prosecutors fail to prove that the money is a kickback for match fixing.

'Golden whistle' loses lustre on stand


People involved in a series of corruption scandals in Chinese soccer arrive at the Tieling Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday before standing trial. [Zhang Hao / China News Service]

Lu is among some 60 national soccer players, referees, coaches and other officials accused of involvement in match-fixing and gambling scandals in a national clampdown in late 2009.

During the two-and-half-hour hearing on Wednesday, the former golden whistle wept when prosecutors mentioned his early success as a referee who "started to officiate key matches in his early 30s", CCTV said.

On a related matter, Yang Yimin, former deputy director of the Chinese Football Administrative Center, was accused of taking bribes since 1995 when he started to work at the Chinese Football Association.

An informant told CCTV the money involved could be more than 12 million yuan. His lawyer, however, refused to disclose any information on the case, the station reported.

Lu Feng, former general manager of Chinese Super League Corporation, and another referee, also went on trial on Wednesday.

China's national soccer team ranks 71st this month according to FIFA, the sport's international governing body.

Gao Leilei, a former player of Beijing Guo'an Club who retired this year, said the crackdown on "black whistles" has been frightening for players and club managers.

Recalling one of the manipulated matches he had played in 2004, he said sometimes it is hard to tell if it is a fixed match, and investigation afterward is important in "maintaining justice".

But Gao admitted that saving the sport requires a fundamental reform in the system.

"Let soccer be an entertaining sport, but not an government achievement," he said.

Xu Wei contributed to this story.