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China begins corruption trials

A two-year investigation into alleged match-fixing in China reaches its peak on Monday as trials begin for around 60 national team players, referees, coaches and other officials accused of being involved in the scandal.

Interest in the Chinese game has heightened of late with the capture of Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and former France international Jean Tigana as coach by big-spending Shanghai Shenhua.

But the domestic game has been dogged by crowd violence, corruption and match-fixing scandals for years, which has led to fans turning away from the game in droves and an investigation into the problems was well-received.

Xinhua news agency reports that the former heads of China's football program, Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, face trial along with Zhang Jianqiang, ex-director of the Chinese Football Association (CFA)'s referee committee, who was arrested nine months ago for match-fixing and bribery.

"Soccer corruption breached the country's law and tarnished the image of the sport as well as the healthy development of soccer in China, leading to a very bad impact on the game," the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said in a statement. "Corruption exposed flaws in the administrative system and imperfections in the supervision mechanism."

It is not clear how long the trials will last, although state media reported that the verdicts would be released "at an appropriate but unspecified time".