FIFA chief Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize for his stewardship of the football governing body, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Football’s governing body was thrown into further turmoil in May when 14 sports marketing executives and officials, including several from FIFA, were indicted in the US on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Seven of those accused were arrested by Swiss police in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel two days before the FIFA Congress where Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term as president.
“We all know the situation developing around Mr Blatter right now,” Putin said in an interview aired by Swiss broadcaster RTS.
“I don’t want to go into details but I don’t believe a word about him being inolved in corruption personally.
“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 to step down over the corruption scandals and FIFA is set to hold fresh elections next February.
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 corrpution makes me wonder if it isn’t a continuation of the bids for 2018 and 2022.”
An economic crisis has forced cut-backs in Russia’s World Cup preparations, but Putin and FIFA officials have said this will not affect Russia’s ability to host the championship.