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Excessive love for money is the root of all evils

Even people in the sports world are not free of this craze for money as more in-depth reports on the arrest of three soccer referees show.

Lu Jun was arrested for taking bribes from local soccer teams. Before being exposed, he was known as the “golden whistle” for his “integrity.” He officiated in two matches at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan. Praising the clean soccer administration in the rest of the world, Lu had lashed out at the “black whistles” scandal in China and recommended the setting up of a supervision regime in the country.

Alas, even Lu has fallen victim to Mammon.

The other two arrested are Zhou Weixin, an official from Guangzhou province, and Huang Junjie, an active FIFA (or international) referee since 1998.

Such arrests suggest the integrity of China’s soccer world is indeed at stake.

China has become a sports superpower, winning numerous impressive international trophies but never in men’s soccer, the most popular game in the world that Brazilians lovingly call jogo bonito, or the beautiful game. The national men’s soccer team has often performed poorly at the international level, and corrupt practices like match-fixing and illegal betting are to blame for that.

In February, the Chinese Football Association announced that during the final weeks of the Super League, half time would be extended from 15 to 30 minutes. It was intended to kick off all second-half games in the league at the same time and prevent referees and players from fixing the outcome of matches. But the move is controversial, because it goes against FIFA rules.

The “professional” soccer league started in the country two decades ago, but its foundation is still unsound. It seems people have used professionalism more to exploit the commercial value of soccer and less to raise the level of the game. So it is not surprising to find “black whistles,” or hear about rigged matches, match-fixing, illegal betting and on-the-pitch violence in soccer.

Reforming the operating mechanism of soccer in the country is the only way that the filth of corruption can be cleansed. The aim of the reform should be to let CFA play the role of supervisor and rule-maker without having the authority to run soccer as a business.

Nan Yong, vice-president of CFA, has described match-fixing as a cancer, which needs to be removed.

To remove the cancer and make soccer a really beautiful game, CFA has to get to the root of the disease and destroy all the infected cells, instead of trying to cure the symptoms.

(China Daily, April 4)
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