Clean-up changes hands
Updated: 2013-01-17 23:44
By TANG ZHE (China Daily)
Wei Di is reportedly replaced as official in charge of moving past soccer scandal
A vast soccer corruption scandal hit Chinese soccer three years ago, entangling several soccer officials and severely damaging the sport's image.
With the sport still in tatters, it appears somebody new will be brought in to clean things up.
This time, it's a man of the law.
As first reported by soccer commentator Yan Qiang on his Sina Weibo account on Wednesday night, Wei Di, the current head of Chinese soccer, will likely be replaced by Zhang Jian, the head of the Department of Policy and Regulation under the State General Administration of Sport of China.
The governing body hasn't confirmed the appointment.
"Zhang graduated from the law department at Peking Univeristy in the early 80s," said Bao Xiaoming, a colleague of Zhang's.
"He is a learned person who is a careful thinker and is known for making good decisions. He is also willing to hear different opinions.
"If he steps in as the soccer head, he has some advantages, such as his age ― he is in his 40s ― and his law background . That should help soccer to be laid on better legal framework."
The leadership upheaval has done little to calm fans.
In an online poll initiated by Sohu.com, nearly 70 percent of the 8,000 participants said they believe Wei's replacement will be unable to fix Chinese soccer, though more than 60 percent voted that the 58-year-old should leave the office due to the national teams' performances during his tenure.
"(Wei) may not have become a soccer expert in the past three years, but his understanding and knowledge of soccer must have improved compared with three years ago," said Yan.
"Now, his successor has to learn from the start, so what has been gained over the past three years?"
Wei was originally given the task of leading the Chinese Football Association's mop-up effort after predecessor Nan Yong was jailed for his role in the scandal. Possessing little soccer knowledge or experience, Wei was still expected to help rehabilitate the sport's image.
Previously, as head of China's aquatic sports administrative center, he led the country to its first canoeing gold medal at the Athens Olympics. He further padded his resume when the sports under his administration, canoeing, rowing and sailing, won five medals － including three gold ― at the Beijing Olympics.
He couldn't duplicate his success in soccer, leading to his reported ouster.
Wei's phone was turned off on Thursday. CFA deputy chief Lin Xiaohua told China Daily he had not heard the news, and that Wei was working at the office as usual on Thursday.
Zhou Jing of the press and publicity department of the general administration of sport said there was no official information inside the sports authority, and that the department had only heard the news online.
Wei was criticized for his lack of soccer experience when his tenure began, then gained a reputation for being out of his depth after the national squads' poor performances in international tournaments.
The men's national team was knocked out of the 2011 Asian Cup in the group stage, and eliminated from the Brazil World Cup early in the Asia qualification. It even failed to reach the final round of the continent's preliminaries for the third consecutive time.
Domestic coach Gao Hongbo's replacement by highly paid Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho in the middle of the World Cup heats also raised questions about why a coaching change occurred at such an inopportune time.
Wei's ouster was also reportedly tied to the CFA's internal political strife.
He criticized the staff at a meeting in March for lacking unity. He also failed to issue disciplinary measures to the clubs involved in match-fixing scandals － none has been punished yet.
According to Sina.com, Wei will take over automobile and motorcycle sports under the general administration of sport, though it's not clear when.
Zhang accompanied Cai Zhenhua, vice-director of the general administration of sport, on a visit to Japan to research soccer last year.
He delivered a speech about the problems of Chinese soccer at a sports forum last May.