Wednesday 21 December 2011

In Hong Kong It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

The promising career of a young Hong Kong football player has all but ended after the 20-year-old admitted to match fixing during an international friendly between hosts Hong Kong and Russia on 5 November 2011. The match finished 1—2.

20-year-old Iu Wai faces a life suspension from the game

Hong Kong has had its share of match-fixing cases, and this latest one follows on from a similar case that occurred two years ago (see Life Ban For Player Found Guilty of Match-Fixing in Hong Kong).

The above two cases involved corrupt players, however referees have been implicated and caught in match-fixing probes too. Thankfully, not in Hong Kong. Recently, referees from China (see China's Golden Whistle Admits Accepting US$44,000 Bribe) and from Niger (see Suspect Referee Performance: Nigeria v Argentina) faced credibility issues and have been investigated.

Notice in the Hong Kong corruption case that there is a lack of investigation (or lack of media reports) looking beyond the 20-year-old player. Obviously, there must be a mastermind or masterminds that set up such match fixing cases. Only the small fish have been caught.

Things will get worse before they get better because at present in Hong Kong there are moves afoot to open things up and to be more transparent. This is due to a new initiative codenamed Project Phoenix which aims to make significant changes in the management structure and future operations of Hong Kong Football. As with all 'shake ups', skeletons may fall out before things get better.


Bribes bid admitted by soccer player (SCMP; subscription required)
Iu Wai reverses earlier plea and says he tried to bribe teammates to fix a showpiece youth friendly against Russia at Mong Kok Stadium
Austin Chiu and Colleen Lee
Dec 17, 2011

A young Hong Kong soccer player yesterday admitted that he tried to bribe his teammates to fix a showpiece international friendly match, reversing an earlier plea of not guilty he made after his arrest.

Iu Wai, 20, an up-and-coming defender for Hong Kong Sapling Football Club who also turns out for Hong Kong's under-21 side, was remanded in custody after pleading guilty at Kowloon City Court to two counts of offering an advantage.

Iu was arrested when ICAC investigators staged an unprecedented raid on a friendly youth match between Hong Kong and Russia, attended by 5,000 spectators, at Mong Kok Stadium on November 5. The Russians won 2-1.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption raid was not only a blow to the already battered reputation of soccer in the city, but led to an important government public relations coup backfiring spectacularly.

The international match at the centre of the investigation was arranged in April during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Hong Kong, when Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen invited Russia's youth squad to play in the city, and initiated an exchange opportunity for young players.

Yesterday in court, Iu admitted that he approached teammate Chan Cham-hei, a defender, and Chiu Yu-ming, a goalkeeper, to throw the match in return for several tens of thousands of dollars. The two turned down his requests and called the ICAC.

Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen adjourned sentencing until December 30, pending a background report, detention centre report and training centre report on Iu.

The court heard that in November Iu was approached by a man, whom he referred to as "Ah Liu", in Shenzhen to bribe Hong Kong youth representative team players to fix the match.

Iu set out to lure Chan and Chiu during a four-day residential training camp days before the match.

Last year, Iu was arrested but not charged when mainlander Yu Yang was jailed for 10 months for trying to fix a First Division match between Happy Valley and Fourway Rangers.

Philip Lee Fai-lap, Sapling's team manager, said: "Iu is foolish to have made the mistake. His career as a football player has just started but it's likely that it's reaching the end."

Lee said Iu was likely to receive a life suspension from the game.

"But we have to appreciate kids do make mistakes. He is going to be punished by law. The next thing the club will do is to give him a helping hand." Lee said.

He said the club would remind its members to always stay clean and abide by the law, adding that the scandal had had a huge impact on the club's reputation.

The Hong Kong Football Association declined to comment.

Timothy Tong Hin-ming, the ICAC commissioner, said the commission completed the investigation and prosecution of Iu within a month of receiving the report.

In the first 11 months of this year, the ICAC received 31 bribery complaints regarding sport and recreational activities, compared with about 20 last year, Tong said on the sidelines of an ICAC seminar.

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