Outspoken Russian president Vladimir Putin has thrown his support behind besieged FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, saying the football boss ought to be awarded a Nobel prize.
During a ceremony in Russia, the controversial leader painted a kinder picture of besieged Mr Blatter, who is set to resign from his post in the midst of a corruption scandal.
“I think people like Mr. Blatter or the heads of big international sporting federations, or the Olympic Games, deserve special recognition, Mr Putin said on Swiss broadcaster RTS.
“If there is anyone who deserves the Nobel prize, it’s those people.”
A joint investigation by American and European police has resulted in the arrest and questioning of many of FIFA’s top officials, including Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer.
While Mr Blatter is yet to be singled out and charged by authorities for inappropriate dealings, he has been widely criticised for presiding over a culture of wrongdoing.
Despite that, Mr Putin says Mr Blatter has done no wrong.
“We all know the situation developing around Mr Blatter right now,” Mr Putin said. “I don’t want to go into details but I don’t believe a word about him being involved in corruption personally.”
The two leaders met in St Petersburg at the qualifying draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia where Mr Blatter reinforced his organisation’s support for the tournament.
As investigations reveal alleged high level bribery and corruption among FIFA’s executive committee, the successful 2018 Russian bid has been tainted by the same allegations.
Mr Putin then insinuated that the only reason FIFA corruption is being fought, is because nations who lost World Cup bids wanted to stake their campaigns again.
“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 said.