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Football: Belgian match-fixing trial finally opens

A Belgian trial implicating players and coaches and a Chinese betting syndicate in a huge match-fixing scandal opened in Brussels on Monday in the absence of the alleged ringleader.

BRUSSELS: A Belgian trial implicating players and coaches and a Chinese betting syndicate in a huge match-fixing scandal opened in Brussels on Monday in the absence of the alleged ringleader.

China's Zheyun Ye, who stands accused by Belgian prosecutors of "buying several matches in the Belgian championship" between 2004 and 2006, was absent having evaded arrest for several years.

He is one of 31 defendants in the wide-ranging corruption probe into the rigging of games by Ye.

The accused include Paul Put, the manager of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finalists Burkina Faso, and former Belgian international goalkeeper Gilbert Bodart.

Ye's syndicate would bribe players "to lift their feet" and club bosses, like Bodart, who after ending his playing career became coach of La Louviere, to rig games.

Some of the accused were in court on Monday. Others, like Put, have already given sworn depositions to investigators.

Some of the lawyers involved in the case complained that it had taken nearly 10 years for the trial, which is expected to last around one month, to come to court.

Put, when quizzed about his role in the affair while at the Cup of Nations last year, gave a vivid portrayal of the state of Belgian football at that period.

"The whole of Belgian football was sick," said the Belgian, who served a three-year ban for his part in fixing matches when in charge of Lierse.

"I was threatened by the mafia, my children were threatened, the mafia threatened me with weapons and things like that so it's not nice to talk about these things but this is the reality.

"I was forced into it. But fixing is a big word. At that time Belgian football was in a bad way. There was no hope, no money. It's not that I was involved in match-fixing, not at all, but it's been portrayed like that in the media.

"And remember, I was just the coach. I had to listen to people above me and the players as well. I was made the scapegoat but other teams were doing the same, not only Lierse."

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