Rather than living a miserable life behind bars like some fellow inmates have done, China's former football chief, Nan Yong, has rejuvenated himself as an inventor and writer during his prison term, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.
Nan, who was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison in June 2012 after a nationwide crackdown on match-fixing and corruption in football, has invented four devices with patents granted by the State Intellectual Property Office, according to Web portal qq.com. He has also published a novel while serving his sentence, it said.
SIPO's online database shows four patents approved under Nan's name by Tuesday, including two devices related to football training－a device for shooting training and a portable goal gate.
"To improve the shooting power and accuracy of football players, this device, which features pressure-sensing pads installed on the gate, could mark the goal placement on the gate area while rating the shot's power, to guide players to improve their skills," Nan noted on the patent specification for the shooting equipment.
The portable goal gate is made of lightweight, detachable parts and could be transported anywhere to be reassembled for football games and training at low cost, according to the patent specification.
Nan's four patent applications－the other two are a mobile phone kickstand and a device to control multiple desktop computer monitors－were submitted last December and granted this year, according to SIPO.
He has also been concentrating on writing in prison and published a science-fiction story last year about a lonely priest under his pseudonym, Wen Yan, Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Citing Nan's good behaviour, including inventing and writing, Yancheng Prison recommended to Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court on Nov 13 that his sentence be reduced.
The court approved the request this month, after receiving no complaints during a public review in November, and announced his sentence will be reduced by one year. Nan will be released in July 2019.
The former vice-chairman of the Chinese Football Association was imprisoned in 2012 for accepting bribes worth more than 1.19 million yuan (S$254,000) for fixing matches and illegally using his power in exchange for economic benefits. He was also fined 200,000 yuan.
Nan's turnaround from a corrupt official to a reborn inventor sparked heated debate on Chinese social media on Tuesday.
"After all, he's shown that he loves football anyway. He was just blinded by the desire for money," a netizen going by the name Robinlovesellen wrote on Tuesday.
Another netizen, Shixiaofeng, wrote: "I strongly recommend that all the football governing body officials in China should work in jail so that they will be forced to make a real contribution to the game."
During the Ministry of Public Security's 2010-2012 campaign against football corruption and match-fixing, 59 officials, players, referees and club owners, including Nan and his predecessor, Xie Yalong, were put behind bars.