Thursday, September 11, 2008

'China's soccer sinner' leaves post

Embattled Chinese Football Association vice president Xie Yalong is set to step down following a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

He will be sent to the China National School of Administration for a three-month academic course, effectively stripping him of the CFA post.

Though fans and the media have been calling on him to quit, Xie expressed surprise at the decision.

"I was told by my superior before the meeting that I would be sent to study," Xie told Titan sports on Tuesday. "It's a kind of training for officials. I have no idea what kind of job I will do after the course."

Xie's colleague Nan Yong has taken over the job but could be just a caretaker boss.

Xie stands accused of leading China's soccer down a dead end since he took charge four years ago.

Due to a rash of bad decisions the national soccer team has shuffled coaches and the team has struggled to find a decent run of form.

His reputation hit rock bottom after the national team failed to make it into the last round of the 2010 World Cup Asian Zone qualifying round. Even worse, the Olympic team was knocked out of the group competition at the Beijing Games.

Since then Xie has been a target of fans' ire.

At domestic league and women's competitions shouts have been heard from the stands such as: "Xie Yalong, Xia Ke . Similar calls have even been heard during Paralympic competitions.

Fans have also opened "Xie Yalong, Xia Ke" forums on websites in a bid to replace "China's soccer sinner".

Xie refused to talk about his future after the Olympics but Tuesday's decision is seen as a signal that officials from the State General Administration of Sports , the governing body of China's sports, have lost patience with him.

It's been a steady slide for Chinese soccer since Xie, who had no previous soccer management experience, took charge in 2005.

China's CFA is part of the government and the appointment of a possible new soccer chief will take time, though the team will have to prepare for next year's Asian Cup qualifiers.

Before leaving, Xie asked his colleagues to support Nan and prioritize the domestic league, a pivotal part of the nation's soccer development.

"There are no international competitions for the remaining part of the year. So I hope you will support Nan in managing the Chinese Super League . We have to make sure the league goes smoothly as it is an essential part of China's soccer."

Xie, however, has presided over a shrinking base for soccer, as sponsorship has dried up and the number of spectators at matches has fallen. There were also match-fixing allegations and lower TV viewing figures.

The latest embarrassment for the CFA is an outstanding payment from the CSL's 2006 season sponsor Iphox.

The British-based IP telecom vendor signed an eight year deal with CFA in March, 2006, but cut the contract from eight years to one in the middle of that season, with a deal of 6 million euros that has seen just 600,000 euros paid so far. CFA decided to sue the company last week.

Adding to the woes, Infront Sports & Media, the exclusive global marketing partner for the Chinese men's and women's national teams until the end of 2010, reportedly deducted 10 million yuan in sponsorship due to the disastrous performances of the men's senior team and Olympic team.

Shang Ruihua, head coach of China women's team during the Beijing Games, said the CFA management system has hindered the sport's development rather than Xie.

"Regarding the current system, CFA should do something but has no right to make major decisions. Xie and Xie's predecessors have proved soccer's problems are not a result of personal mistakes," said Shang, who left his post after the women's team was eliminated in the quarterfinals during the Beijing games.

"Xie should take some responsibility for the coaching switches in both the men's and women's teams and his ideas were sometimes out of date.

"But I don't think things will become better after Xie leaves if the management system does not change."

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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