The former coach of the Chinese national football team, Li Tie, in pre-trial detention for corruption, declared on Tuesday January 9 that he had paid nearly 400,000 euros to obtain his appointment in January 2020. His remarks illustrate the embezzlement in national football, against which Beijing says it is fighting.

During these confessions, broadcast in a documentary on public television CCTV, the technician, now 46 years old, also claimed to have helped fix matches when he was a club coach.

“I am very sorry. I should have stayed grounded and followed the right path,” he said, looking sheepish. “There are certain things that, at the time, were common practices in football. »

Revocation in 2011

In January 2020, when he succeeded the Italian Marcello Lippi as coach, the former Everton player (Premier League) declared that he was realizing “one of the biggest dreams” of his life. To achieve it, he explained in the documentary that he asked the club of which he was then coach, Wuhan Zall, to intervene on his behalf with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), a state body which acts as a federation .

According to him, the club, to which Li Tie had promised a return of favor once appointed, then paid 2 million yuan (255,000 euros) in bribes to Chen Xuyuan, then president of the CFA. Li Tie also claimed to have given 1 million yuan (128,000 euros) to the CFA secretary general out of his own pocket.

Shortly after his appointment, he summoned four players from Wuhan Zall to the selection, who, by the admission of their club president, interviewed in the documentary, “did not have the level to access it”. Li Tie failed to qualify China for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and was dismissed from his post in December 2021. He further said he helped buy several matches that allowed the Chinese second division teams he managed to reach the elite.

Anti-corruption agency investigation

The National Anti-Corruption Agency launched an investigation against him at the end of 2022, which led to the removal of around ten senior leaders and executives of the CFA, including ex-president Chen Xuyuan.

The latter was indicted in September for corruption. He admitted in the documentary to having received large sums of money from players in the football world wishing to curry favor with him. “I want to offer my deepest apologies to all football fans in China,” he said, looking serious.

These football prosecutions are part of a major anti-corruption campaign launched by President Xi Jinping. The Chinese government has great ambitions for the national team, but it remains in 79th place in the FIFA rankings, the same level as ten years ago.