Why IS banned ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter at the World Cup? Disgraced former football bigwig arrives in Moscow on Vladimir Putin’s invitation despite being barred from the sport
- Disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived in Moscow on Tuesday
- Blatter’s spokesman said he is set to meet with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday
- The 82-year-old is currently serving a six-year FIFA ban for unethical conduct
Disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has defied a ban to attend World Cup matches and arrived in Moscow at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.
Blatter is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors for alleged corruption during his 17-year reign as head of world football’s governing body.
The 82-year-old is currently serving a six-year ban for unethical conduct after FIFA was rocked by a global corruption scandal in 2015.
But he arrived in Russia on Tuesday with his partner Linda Barras after being invited by Putin, who he is set to meet with on Wednesday.
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Disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has defied a ban to attend World Cup matches and arrived in Moscow at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin
Blatter is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors for alleged corruption during his 17-year reign as head of world football’s governing body
His appearance at the World Cup in Russia is likely to embarrassing for FIFA and its new head, Gianni Infantino. FIFA said it had no comment to make on Blatter’s trip.
Infantino, who comes from a neighboring town in the same Swiss canon (state) as his predecessor, has promised to draw a line under FIFA’s corruption problems and clean up the organisation.
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Blatter arrived in central Moscow by car, where he spoke briefly to reporters and said he just wanted to enjoy the World Cup before he was surrounded by fans who he posed with for selfies.
‘I’m not here to comment the game. I’m here to enjoy the World Cup,’ a smiling Blatter told reporters before stepping inside a five-star downtown Moscow hotel.
Blatter will meet Putin on Wednesday, his spokesman Thomas Renggli said, and watch Portugal take on Morocco at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.
Blatter arrived in central Moscow by car, where he spoke briefly to reporters and said he just wanted to enjoy the World Cup
Blatter will meet Putin on Wednesday and watch Portugal take on Morocco at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, his spokesman said
He might also attend Brazil’s match against Costa Rica in Putin’s native Saint Petersburg. Putin is not scheduled to be at either match.
Meanwhile, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday he did not know whether any meeting had been planned.
Blatter has previously said he had been invited to attend the World Cup by Putin, with whom he has a long-standing close relationship, and he was ‘honoured’ to accept.
The two men developed a close relationship after FIFA’s disputed decision in 2010 to award this year’s tournament to Russia instead of England.
Blatter has previously said he had been invited to attend the World Cup by Putin, with whom he has a long-standing close relationship, and he was ‘honoured’ to accept
Last year, Peskov confirmed the invitation, saying: ‘Putin has a long and, you may say, friendly relationship with Blatter.’
Blatter voted for Russia to host the World Cup when it won a four-candidate contest in December 2010.
But an investigation into how FIFA awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively led to the ousting of Blatter from office.
Blatter announced his intention to resign from FIFA days after American and Swiss federal prosecutors unsealed sweeping investigations of corruption and bribery linked to international football and marketing officials, including some FIFA vice presidents, in May 2015.
Blatter voted for Russia to host the World Cup when it won a four-candidate contest in December 2010
The Swiss national was suspended for six years by FIFA in 2016 from ‘all football activities’ over a 1.8-million-euro ($2 million) payment to former UEFA chief Michel Platini.
A Swiss criminal proceeding was opened against Blatter in September 2015 for alleged financial misconduct.
Using allegations from that case, FIFA’s ethics committee opened its own case and banned him for eight years. It was reduced to six by FIFA’s appeals panel.
But no charges have yet been brought and Blatter has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Although Blatter is banned from official football duty, it doesn’t prevent him from attending games.
His arrival in Moscow was Blatter’s first public appearance outside his native Switzerland since July 2015 when the World Cup qualifying draw was conducted in St. Petersburg.
Blatter shared the draw ceremony stage that day with Putin.
As FIFA’s CEO-general secretary, Blatter oversaw preparations for each World Cup from 1982 to 1998.
He was elected FIFA president on the eve of the 1998 World Cup in France, and headed football’s world governing body for four more tournaments through 2014.
Blatter remains an instantly recognisable, if often polarising, figure to generations of football fans.
‘I just saw him and said I have to take a picture with him,’ Mexico fan Maximiliano Vazquez said after taking a photograph with Blatter on Tuesday. ‘He was friendly.’
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