• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Ex-Everton player Li Tie gets life imprisonment for match-fixing

Li-Tie

Former Everton player Li Tie has reportedly been sentenced to life in prison in his native China for corruption and match-fixing after confessing to paying over £300,000 in bribes to get a national team post.

Li played 33 matches for Everton while on loan from Chinese club Liaoning during the 2002/03 season and played seven games the following season after signing permanently.

The defensive midfielder had a stint with Sheffield United but suffered injury problems after breaking his leg on international duty in February 2004.

Li, 46-year-old finished his career in China and served as manager of their national team between 2019 and 2021.

A year after Li left that post, the Chinese public prosecutor released a bombshell statement saying he was ‘suspected of accepting and offering bribes’ amid a huge crackdown on corruption in football.

Li admitted he paid 3 million yuan (£330,000) in bribes to become coach of the national team in a televised confession on state broadcaster CCTV.

He also confessed to taking part in a match-fixing scandal to win promotions with his club teams.

China-based reporter and author Mark Dreyer said Li has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the scandal.

“I’m very sorry. I should have kept my head to the ground and followed the right path. There were certain things that at the time were common practices in football,” Li said.

Li admitted to successfully fixing matches when coach of Hebei China Fortune and Wuhan Zall. The latter won promotion from China League One as champions in 2018.

“By gaining ‘success’ through such improper means, it made me more and more impatient and eager for quick results.

“To achieve good performance, I resorted to influencing referees, bribing opposing players and coaches, sometimes through clubs dealing with other clubs.

“This behaviour becomes a habit, and eventually, there is even a slight dependence on these practices.”

Li was regarded as one of the most talented Chinese players of his generation when he signed for Everton in August 2002.

The loan deal for him – and compatriot Li Weifeng – was brokered by the now-defunct Chinese telecommunications company Keijan, who sponsored Everton at the time.

Li was a surprise hit at Goodison Park with manager David Moyes playing him regularly in the Premier League as Everton achieved a seventh-place finish.

That persuaded Everton to sign him permanently for £1.2million in August 2003, with two-thirds of the deal paid for by sponsorships.

Having been sent off against Arsenal on the opening day of the season, Li broke his leg while playing for China in February 2004 and never managed to get back into the first team.

He was released by Everton in 2006 and joined Sheffield United, but he played only once for the Blades because of lingering injury issues.

Li, who played 92 times for China between 1995 and 2007, moved to Chengdu Blades, who were affiliated to Sheffield United in 2008 and later returned to hometown club Liaoning.

After coaching at club level, he acted as caretaker coach of the China national team after Marcello Lippi resigned in 2019 and was then appointed permanently.

In November 2022, it was initially announced Li had been placed under investigation for ‘serious violation of laws’ by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the anti-corruption agency the National Supervisory Commission.