At the 2018 World Cup preliminary draw in St. Petersburg, outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter received a strong endorsement from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Speaking on a Swiss TV station, Putin said he not only believes the soon-to-be ex-FIFA president is being unfairly criticized, he thinks Blatter should receive a Nobel prize for his work, according to Reuters.
“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 said. “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.”
Putin is one of the few public figures to voice his support for Blatter, who announced his intentional to resign as FIFA president in the wake of unprecedented corruption scandal. Blatter has faced criticism from former players, fellow soccer officials, and government officials.
Russia is scheduled to host the 2018 World Cup, despite Swiss investigators launching a probe into the 2018 and 2022 bidding process. Blatter has pledged his “total support” for Putin and Russia’s World Cup bid.
It was widely reported before the FIFA scandal that Blatter aspired to win the Nobel Peace Prize.