Star Vietnam players found guilty of match-fixing

Seven members of Vietnam's national football team were convicted of deliberately holding down the score in a game against Myanmar in December exchange for payments from a gambling ring. Lawyer Pham Liem Chinh, who represented the most famous of the defendants, Vietnam's top football star Van Quyen, told Matt Steinglass of VOA that the ringleader of the point-shaving scheme, Le Quoc Vuong, received the harshest sentence, of six years in prison. Truong Tan Hai, the ex-player for V-League club Saigon Port who served as a liaison to gambling kingpins, received two years. Van Quyen and the other six players received two-year suspended sentences, during which they will be banned from playing football

The Peoples Court ruled that while playing against much weaker Myanmar during the 2005 South East Asia Games in Manila, the players had deliberately held back to keep Vietnam's margin of victory to just one goal. In return, they had been promised a total of US$15,000 by the leader of an organised gambling ring. Lawyer Chinh said he was relatively satisfied with the verdict. Counting time served, Chinh says, Van Quyen's suspended sentence will be up at the end of 2007, when he could return to playing football.

An official at the Vietnamese Football Federation confirmed that if the players completed their sentences and showed remorse, they could be allowed to play again. Vu Quang Vinh, VFF Vice President, told AP that the sentences were appropriate. "It was a good lesson for everyone," he said.