WSJ: Biggest Thing About Soccer in China are the Bribes

Why doesn’t the People’s Republic of China have a soccer team in this year’s World Cup? Seems like they have found a way to build sports powerhouses in almost every other area. The problem could be money. No, not the money they need to support the teams, but the money used to pay bribes to the best players as part of what appears to be the world’s largest soccer gambling ring. Play for the Chinese National Team? Sorry, can’t take the pay cut!
Here’s more from the Wall Street Journal:

China didn’t make the cut for this year’s World Cup in South Africa, but according to the police, thousands of people have still gotten in on the soccer action by participating in illegal online gambling rings. As of Saturday, police have already confiscated $102 million in illegal funds and arrested some 3,600 suspects for illegal gambling in connection with the World Cup, according to a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Illicit gambling in Chinese soccer seems about as common as shin guards, and experts have said it’s also a key reason China hasn’t done well on the international soccer stage. Both performance and credibility has suffered amid accusations of match fixing and rumors that players pay for spots on the national roster.

Though that hasn’t dampened interest in online gambling. “The state of our country’s online illegal gambling activities is still a very grim situation,” a police official told reporters, according to the Legal Daily. He largely blamed offshore gambling syndicates for “infiltrating” the country, according to the report. While Chinese officials like to blame foreigners for the illegal activities, corruption has a long history in Chinese soccer.

Traditionally, national-team hopefuls had to pay tens of thousands of yuan in bribes, said Rowan Simons, author of a book on soccer in China, according to CNN. “Players have come out and said they can’t play for the national team because they can’t afford it,” he said, according to the report.