Former head coach of Chinese men's soccer team Li Tie under investigation
Published: Nov 26, 2022 10:47 AM
File Photo:CGTN

File Photo:CGTN

Li Tie, former head coach of the Chinese men's football team, is under investigation for suspected serious violations of the law, local disciplinary authorities announced on Saturday. Being the first head coach of national football team to be investigated, Li's downfall has made headlines on Chinese social media platforms on Saturday, sparking public concerns over whether his case would trigger a new wave as it has been 13 years since the 2009 crackdown on match-fixing and corruption in Chinese football.

According to the Hubei Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection, Li, 45, is under investigation by the national discipline inspection team and the Hubei supervision commission for suspected serious violations of the law.

According to the Beijing Youth Daily, Li's last public appearance before the investigation was on November 2 when he attended an open training class at Shenyang Sport University. On November 8, Li departed from Shenyang and attended a training class of professional coaches of Chinese Football Association in Dalian, Northwest China's Liaoning Province.

During the training session, he was said to have been taken away for investigation, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. Chinese football coaches and former players Yang Chen, Fan Zhiyi and Li Yi, and Chinese football manager and former player Gong Lei also participated in the professional training class, revealed.

Li Tie was a midfielder of the national team for many years. After Marcello Lippi resigned at the end of 2019, Li became the head coach of China's national team.

In December 2021, Li resigned as head coach of China's national team and was replaced by former team mate Li Xiaopeng, the Chinese Football Association announced.

The former Everton midfielder quit amid growing criticism of his team's performances in their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign as the country looks to reach the finals for the first time since their debut almost 20 years ago.

According to the Soccer News in 2021, after Li was elected coach of the national football team, he changed the cooperation mode with Wuhan team and signed a new contract. His position was similar to that of the general manager, and he was fully in charge of the club.

In 2018 and 2019 when he was the coach of the Wuhan team, Li's annual salary was 12 million yuan ($1.675 million), and in 2020, his annual salary reached 30 million yuan after he "moved behind the scenes," media reports said.

The Chinese Football Association has greatly increased the salary of the national coach to 8 million yuan, and does not allow national coaches to work part-time on club teams. cited anonymous sources as saying that Li had been under real-name reporting.

As it has been 13 years since the 2009 crackdown on match-fixing and corruption in Chinese football, whether the investigation of Li will trigger a new such crackdown is of great concern to the public.

The public, especially Chinese soccer fans, look forward to a thorough investigation of relevant cases and those responsible, hoping Li's case could be an opportunity for improving the Chinese soccer industry.

After Team China's 1-1 draw with Australia in its latest round of World Cup qualifiers, which virtually eliminated China from contention to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, one netizen identified as a lawyer posted on Chinese twitter-like social media Sina Weibo that he had reported Chinese head coach Li Tie to the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission, claiming that Li's annual salary was a case of corruption.   

The angry netizen posted a screenshot of his real-name report on Li on his Weibo account on Wednesday, saying that his annual salary of 8 million yuan ($1.25 million) was not linked to any performance evaluation bearing in mind how poor the team's form had been, and that Li did not use naturalized players, which he contented was wasting "state property" and "abuse of power."  

Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Saturday that this high-level downfall in Chinese men's football team has exposed that only from the systematic level can we avoid such scandals.

Wang believes improved and more complete and specific regulations, laws and punishment should be introduced and served as a deterrence to prevent more people in the field from engaging in corruption, otherwise there could be "another Li Tie" in the future.

On Thursday, China's top disciplinary agency disclosed several corruption cases involving young officials and football gambling, as a move to strengthen the education of young officials from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and as a reminder to eradicate gambling.

There is still a long way to go to eradicate the existence of unhealthy practices such as football gambling and strengthen the education and oversight of young CPC officials, according to a post on the official website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China and the National Supervisory Commission.