Russian President Vladimir Putin commended the outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter in an interview to Swiss broadcaster RTS on Monday, saying that Blatter deserved a Nobel Prize for his work.
“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,” he said, according to the Guardian. “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 his resignation in early June, just days after winning the re-election to the post amid a massive corruption scandal. The investigation into the matter is being carried out by the United States, Switzerland and law enforcement officials of other countries, and has already resulted in the arrests of several leading officials and other people associated with the world soccer authority.
On Saturday, Blatter announced at a meeting with Putin that FIFA had passed a resolution offering “full support” for the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Swiss investigators are looking into allegations of corruption and impropriety over the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. Qatar has also come under fire for the maltreatment of its migrant workers involved in the construction of the tournament’s facilities.
When the scandal broke in May with the arrest of nine FIFA officials, Putin criticized the move as an attempt by Washington to interfere in Russia’s affairs. Other Russian officials have also alleged a U.S.-led conspiracy behind the timing of the arrests.
Putin pointed out in the latest interview that the U.S. was a candidate to host the 2022 World Cup that eventually went to Qatar, and that American ally Britain was in the running for the 2018 World Cup.
"The way this fight against corruption is being conducted leads me to wonder if it's not a continuation of the fight for the 2018 and 2022 championships," Putin said in the interview.
It seems unlikely Blatter would be eligible for a Nobel Prize, after the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, ended its relationship with the scandal-ridden authority in June.
The election for Blatter's successor is set to take place in February 2016.