Formal Chinese men’s soccer team coach imprisoned for bribery

The trial of Li Tie, the former head coach of the Chinese national men’s soccer team on charges including bribery hasn’t commenced yet so the claim saying that he was sentenced to life imprisonment is a rumor, according to a CCTV report.

Since Thursday, several of sports news accounts have been posting on social media the development of Li’s case, which has been high profile. They all quoted veteran soccer reporter Ran Xiongfei as saying that Li had already received life imprisonment sentence during his first trial.

CCTV said in the report on Saturday that it has verified the information with relevant authorities, and the fact is that Li has not stood on trial yet, so the claim cannot be true.

The investigation against Li, 46, was launched in November 2022. The probe turned out to be the tip of the iceberg and exposed systemic corruption in Chinese soccer.

More than a dozen high-ranking and mid-level officials of the Chinese Football Association came under scrutiny following the investigation against Li. Another dozen individuals, including coaches, players, referees, club executives and agents, were also investigated.

Li, who retired as a player in 2012, transitioned to coaching and joined the Hebei China Fortune Football Club in August 2015.

Li guided two China League One teams to the Chinese Super League. Match-fixing was later determined to have been behind both these achievements, according to an anti-corruption documentary series aired in January.

In August 2019, Li saw an opportunity to climb up the ladder, as a national team was being put together for the East Asian Cup.

“I really wanted to become the head coach of the national team,” he said in the documentary. “I tried various methods. I lobbied many people, contacted CFA leaders, and sought their support and recommendations.”

And his unscrupulous methods paid off. He became head coach of the Chinese men’s national team in 2020.

The Hubei Provincial People’s Procuratorate said in a statement issued in August last year that Li has been indicted on bribery charges.