Fifa chief Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel prize for his work, according to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The head of football’s governing body met with Putin on Saturday in St. Petersburg to declare the organisation’s support for Russia’s World Cup in 2018, the qualifying draw for which took place on the same day.
And Putin – who has been outspoken in his condemnation of the corruption investigations targeting Fifa – has launched a staunch defence of Blatter and the heads of similar sporting groups across the globe.
“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 via Swiss broadcaster RTS.
“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 in June that he will step down as Fifa president following the corruption scandal which has blighted the organisation and seen a number of officials indicted after a US-led investigation.
Putin, who criticised the timing of the initial arrests earlier this summer, has now suggested the continued investigation is intended by some nations as a last-ditched attempt to secure the rights to host the World Cup.
“The way there is this fight against corruption makes me wonder if it isn’t a continuation of the bids for 2018 and 2022,” he added.