Friday, October 20, 2006

Vietnam coach approves of jail for corrupt players

More than 80 fans have offered to donate a kidney to Vietnam's ailing national team coach Alfred Riedl. Fortunately for the 57-year-old former Austria Vienna, FC Metz and Standard Liege player, matches for his much-needed transplant have been found. "It's been strange, but a very nice feeling having so many people wanting to help me, it was a surprise," Riedl told Reuters from Hanoi.

Having taken the country to silver medals in the 1999 and 2003 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Riedl is in his third stint as Vietnam's national team coach since 1998. He was previously sacked for speaking out against the country's state-run football federation, which has hired and fired six foreign coaches in as many years. However, he insists the football bosses have given him their full support and says the transplant will not affect his preparations for next year's Asian Cup finals, which Vietnam is co-hosting with Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Riedl says a major setback ahead of the tournament is the suspension of several key members of his squad for alleged match-fixing at last year's SEA Games in the Philippines. Seven of his players have been charged with accepting 500 million dong ($31,000) to ensure Vietnam beat Myanmar 1-0. "The match-fixing scandal didn't help," Riedl said. "This was a big problem for my team. Three to four of the players would have been in the team now."

Riedl says he hopes harsh punishment will stop Vietnamese players taking risks and allowing themselves to be corrupted by offers of cash from underground betting rings. "I think this will be a good deterrent," he said. "When someone goes to jail for this, it will wake everyone up, like they've never been woken before." "It will be terrible for them to go to jail and they will see what they're doing has too great a risk. It's good that Vietnam is trying to sort this out," he added.

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