Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize for his work at Fifa, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
His statement follows a meeting between the two over the weekend in St Petersburg when Blatter said that football’s governing body had passed a resolution offering full support for holding the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The awarding of the competition to Russia is one of many Fifa decisions being investigated as part of international corruption probes.
“We all know the situation developing around Mr Blatter right now. I don’t want to go into details but I don’t believe a word about him being involved in corruption personally,” Putin told Swiss television.
“I think people like Mr Blatter or the heads of big international sporting federations, or the Olympic Games, deserve special recognition. If there is anyone who deserves the Nobel Prize, it’s those people.”
Blatter announced he was quitting in June over a bribery scandal being investigated by US, Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged FIFA into the worst crisis in its 111-year history. Officials have been indicted though Blatter himself has not and he denies any misconduct.
The scandal has cast a cloud over the forthcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar, but Russian officials have dismissed any suggestion Russia could be stripped of the contest.
In May, when the scandal broke, Putin harshly criticised the US investigation into FIFA as meddling in matters that were outside its jurisdiction.
He rekindled that criticism in the interview broadcast on Monday, and widened it to include Britain, noting that those two countries had bid to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
“The way there is this fight against corruption makes me wonder if it isn’t a continuation of the bids for 2018 and 2022.”