Sepp Blatter Should Win Nobel Prize, Says Vladimir Putin Amid FIFA Investigation

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2015

Outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) ahead of the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers at the Konstantin Palace in Saint Petersburg on July 25, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV        (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes outgoing FIFA chief Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize for his contribution to football.

Speaking to Swiss television station RTS, Putin dismissed the ongoing police investigations into corruption within FIFA, reported BBC Sport:

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.

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.

president Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Sepp Blatter of FIFA during the final of the FIFA World Cup 2014 on July 13, 2014 at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

Despite winning the recent FIFA presidential election, Blatter will step down in February 2016 after the governing body became the subject of two concurrent investigations. A new leader will be elected in this extraordinary meeting, per FIFA.com.

As reported by the United States Department of Justice, the FBI-led probe has already indicted nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives on charges of "racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies." However, a separate investigation by Swiss authorities is looking into the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, handed to Russia and Qatar, respectively, per BBC Sport.

Putin appears happy to remain outspoken about the situation, having previously suggested Russia cannot be stripped of its right to host the tournament after winning the vote "in a fair fight," reported the Guardian.

FIFA President Joseph Blatter (L) meets with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prior to a signing ceremony of finalising the status of Russia as the 2018 FIFA World Cup host country at the Grand Hotel Europe in Saint-Petersburg on January 22, 2010.
AFP/Getty Images

The Russian leader earlier implied the FBI investigation should be considered "an attempt by the U.S. to extend its jurisdiction to other states," as detailed by Katie Stallard of Sky News. Stallard said hosting the World Cup is seen as a moment of "national prestige" for Russia, a notion galvanised by Putin, who is directly associating himself with the competition.

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"‎His intervention in Mr. Blatter's defence suggests he will take any perceived threat to it equally as personally," reported Stallard.

Blatter previously revealed he has a "clean conscience," per German magazine Bunte (via the Guardian). U.S. officials speaking to the New York Times (h/t BBC News) confirmed they are trying to "build a case against Mr Blatter."

David McKenzie of CNN provided an interesting image:

David McKenzie @McKenzieCNN

This graphic of FIFA leadership is extraordinary. http://t.co/tTLOyrJKCa

Putin doesn't specify which Nobel Prize Blatter should be considered for. Perhaps he believes bringing major football competitions to Russia, Qatar and South Africa is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize vote. Maybe Putin believes each tournament's financial impact marks Blatter as a candidate for the economics award.

Blatter has won numerous plaudits in his role, as detailed by FIFA.com. Trinkets including the Order of Good Hope, awarded by South Africa, and India's Order of Peace underline suggestions he has genuinely advanced the global accessibility of football.

It's the manner in which this has been achieved—whether Blatter is implicated in criminal activity or not—that will eventually go on to define his lasting legacy.

Putin seems destined to stand by Blatter until the end, not least due to Russia's difficult political relationship with the United States clearly marking two sides during the ongoing investigations.


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