S.Korean footballer criminally detained for accepting bribes, first foreign player investigated in China's anti-graft storm
Published: May 16, 2023 05:28 PM
Son Jun-ho (center) of Shandong Taishan FC plays in Chinese Super Cup on April 8, 2023 in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: VCG

Son Jun-ho (center) of Shandong Taishan FC plays in Chinese Super Cup on April 8, 2023 in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: VCG

Public security authorities in Northeast China's Liaoning Province have criminally detained a South Korean national on suspicion of accepting bribes, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday when being asked about South Korean footballer Son Jun-ho's situation.

Speaking at a regular news conference, Wang said that the public security authorities have issued a consular notification to the South Korean Consulate General in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning and will provide the necessary facilities for the Korean consular officials to perform their consular duties.

Son, a 31-year-old midfielder, joined Shandong Taishan, a major soccer club in the Chinese Super League (CSL), in 2021, established himself as a key member of the team and went on the win the 2021 CSL title and 2021 Chinese Football Association Cup. Son's outstanding performance helped him get selected for South Korea's national team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where he and his team advanced to the knockout stage.

The South Korean Embassy in Beijing said on Monday that Son has been placed under investigation by police, and that a consul is providing necessary consular assistance, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported earlier.

It is worth noting that Son has become the first foreign player to be detained in the latest anti-graft storm sweeping Chinese soccer. He is also the first foreign soccer player to be investigated and detained over soccer-related allegations in CSL history, according to public information. 

Before the Chinese authorities publicly announced that Son has been criminally detained, many soccer fans and even veteran soccer reporters believed that he was only another player being questioned as a witness about match-fixing allegations surrounding their head coach, Hao Wei. Chinese soccer reporters said in late April that Hao has been taken away for further investigation over match-fixing allegations, and that Jin Jingdao, the club's key player and national team member, is also under investigation. A number of Shandong players and other team players related to Shandong have also reportedly assisted investigation. 

Veteran soccer reporter Ran Xiongfei said through his social media account that Shandong Taishan club has been in internal chaos for a long time, and match-fixing has become a major problem.

More than 10 senior soccer-related officials have been detained or investigated over legal and disciplinary violations, including deputy minister of the Chinese General Administration of Sport Du Zhaocai, Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan, and former national soccer team head coach Li Tie since November 2022, in the latest anti-graft storm in Chinese soccer.

Global Times