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November 20, 2009

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Crackdown on football betting nets former goalie

A FORMER Chinese goalkeeper is back in the spotlight after he was seized by police in a nationwide crackdown on football betting.

Yan Yi, reckoned to be the best goalkeeper in central China in the 1990s, was taken by police from a hotel room in Wuhan City, capital of Hubei Province, on Monday to assist the investigation, the Chutian Jinbao newspaper reported yesterday.

The 38-year-old is believed to have had close connections with Wang Po, then general manager of the Shaanxi Guoli Football Club and a kingpin of football betting, according to insiders.

Yan transferred to Guoli from his former Wuhan club in 2004 and stunned the fans with his flawless performance in his first match for the side.

Yet his performances slipped after that first match.

He left Guoli a year later as he claimed the club had no money to pay players' salaries. Yan told a press conference in 2005 that the club owned him 1.5 million yuan (US$219,700).

Yan defended Wang when he was accused of having drugged one of his own players, said one of Yan's former teammates, showing how tight their relationship was.

The former teammate added that it was common for poor clubs in China's football leagues to seek money by deliberately losing games.

Wang is alleged to have been the mastermind of manipulated matches that involved Yan. Wang could win 30 million yuan from just one game, according to a Liaoning Province news Website.

Wang was not well liked by the Guoli fans. They claimed it was his fault that their club was edged out of the football league and accused him of ruining four other teams that he had been manager of.

Yan is reported to have been focusing on his own business interests and happy away from football. Before Monday, he had not been mentioned in connection with the sport since 2005.

The nationwide crackdown on football betting has seen several executives and officials sacked from the football association.


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