Sepp Blatter, the suspended former president of world football’s governing body FIFA, has met Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, defying FIFA’s wish for him to attract little attention.This content was published on June 21, 2018 - 14:10
Blatter says he went to see the Russian president after watching Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco in Moscow on Wednesday – wearing the laminate fan ID card required for all people attending World Cup games in Russia.
“We had small talks,” the 82-year-old Swiss said on Thursday. “We spoke about football and the good start of the competition, the good start of the [Russian] team.”
Blatter is serving a six-year ban from official football duties for financial misconduct during his 17-year rule. The terms of the ban, which runs until October 2021, meant he was kept separate from his successor Gianni Infantino and other football officials at Luzhniki Stadium.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to give details of Blatter’s visit, describing it as “a private meeting”. Zurich-based FIFA also declined to comment on details of Blatter’s visit, saying it took note of his arrival.
Fulfilling a long-standing personal invitation from Putin to attend the World Cup, Blatter will next travel to St Petersburg to see Brazil play Costa Rica on Friday.
Blatter said it was “respectful” to be invited to the Kremlin despite being suspended from football. He was escorted to the presidential home by his former FIFA executive committee colleague Vitaly Mutko, who is a deputy prime minister and president of Russia’s football federation.
“I think it is a respectful activity and I was happy to meet him [Putin] in the Kremlin,” he said. Blatter was FIFA president from 1998 until being suspended from office in October 2015 in the fallout from US and Swiss federal investigations of international football officials.
Blatter’s presence in Russia is potentially awkward and embarrassing for the sport’s new leadership, trying to rebuild its reputation after corruption-scarred years.
Most of the executive committee members who took part in a December 2010 vote to pick Russia and Qatar as future World Cup votes have been investigated or suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee, or indicted by the US Department of Justice.
Blatter, however, suggested FIFA was not troubled by his five-day visit – his first public appearance outside Switzerland since a July 2015 trip to St Petersburg for the World Cup qualifying draw.
“The president of FIFA was informed personally by the president of the state here that he invites me. And he has said, OK, nothing. So I don’t think they are bothered,” he said.
However, Blatter joked about his relationship with Infantino, who is from a neighbouring town in the same Swiss region.
“I have a very special relationship with Gianni Infantino,” he said. “It means we don’t speak!”
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