Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Vietnamese soccer rocked by match-fixing scandal

AFP , HANOI

Nine Vietnamese soccer referees and officials went on trial in the soccer-obsessed nation yesterday accused of taking and giving bribes to fix matches, a court official said.

The defendants in the Hanoi people's court trial, which is scheduled to last two days, include seven referees, the former deputy coach of a local club and a former director of the southern Can Tho Province sports department.

"The nine defendants will be prosecuted for taking and giving bribes, or for acting as middlemen between teams in several negative incidents in V-League competitions in recent years," a court official said.

According to the prosecutors' indictment, "the referees abused their tasks ... to have unjustifiable relations with football teams, accepting to help some teams, then receiving their bribes."

The referees, including FIFA-ranked Truong The Toan and Le Van Tu, were accused of accepting hundreds of millions of dong (tens of thousands of dollars) in the 2004-2005 V-League seasons to be less tough on Dong A and Can Tho clubs.

The defendants' behavior "had undermined the prestige and badly influenced the rules of honesty, objectiveness and obedience to the law [that] referees had to follow when running matches," the indictment said.

If found guilty, the referees and officials face a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.

The domestic V-League has been marred by allegations of corruption and match fixing among players and referees since its debut 2000-2001 season.

Two former soccer players are now serving jail terms of three and four years after they were found guilty in January of fixing an under-23 match against Myanmar at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, in return for cash.

Six young players in the same scam were given suspended prison sentences.

The Asian Football Confederation last year urged Vietnam to tackle corruption, saying it was "causing untold damage to Asian football."

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