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Former China football chief given life sentence for 'huge' bribery

BEIJING – The former chairman of the Chinese Football Association has been sentenced to life in prison for accepting bribes worth $11 million, state media said Tuesday, as a string of sports officials were jailed for corruption.

Under President Xi Jinping a sweeping crackdown on official graft has struck hard at China's sports industry, especially football.

About 10 senior leaders and executives of the CFA, including former national team coach Li Tie, have been brought down in recent years.

Former chairman Chen Xuyuan took advantage of his positions at the CFA and other bodies to "illegally accept sums of money from other people totalling 81.03 million yuan ($11 million)", the Communist Party-run People's Daily newspaper said.

The bribes were "particularly huge" and his actions "seriously damaged fair competition and order", the report said.

He "caused serious consequences for the national football industry", it added.

Xi is a self-confessed football fanatic who has said he dreams of his country hosting and winning the World Cup.

That ambition appears further away than ever after the corruption probe and years of disappointing results on the pitch.

National skipper Zhang Linpeng last week quit international football over the "disgrace" of a World Cup qualifying draw with Singapore, before reversing his decision.

Chen held other positions in football before serving as CFA chairman from 2019 until he came under investigation in February last year.

In January, Chen appeared in a televised documentary confessing to having accepted money from those wishing to get in his good books.

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

"But they cannot forgive corruption."

Rulings in other major graft cases are expected to be announced on Tuesday, according to state news agency Xinhua.

They may include the fate of the former coach Li, who was close to Chen.

The former Everton midfielder admitted in the January documentary that he arranged nearly $430,000 in bribes to secure that position and also helped fix matches when he was a club coach.

"There were certain things that at the time were common practices in football," he