Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday in an annual news conference that suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
“He is a very reputable person who has contributed greatly to the development of modern football,” Putin said. “His contribution to the global humanitarian field is enormous. He has always tried to use football not just for sport but as a tool for fostering cooperation between people. He is the one who should get the Nobel Peace Prize.”
In the conference, Putin also acknowledged the alleged corruption involved in world soccer’s governing body’s decision to grant Russia hosting privileges for the 2018 World Cup.
“We know firmly one thing: that we received the right to host the World Cup in an absolutely honest and competitive fight,” Putin asserted.
Putin also said he felt Blatter deserved the Nobel Prize in July as the scandal enveloping FIFA was just beginning to unfold.
Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation into Blatter on Sept. 25. The Swiss attorney general brought charges of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation against him.
Blatter was suspended from FIFA on Oct. 8 as a result of an ongoing investigation by the FIFA ethics committee into alleged mismanagement of funds, centering on a $2 million payment Blatter made to UEFA president Michel Platini in 2011.
Blatter, who has served as FIFA’s president since 1998, was re-elected for a fifth term earlier this year. He announced his plans to resign from his post just four days after winning the election as FIFA became the target of a widespread corruption investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Since then, 41 indictments have been issued to FIFA officials by U.S. prosecutors in a case involving upwards of $200 million in bribes and kickbacks.
Despite his suspension, Blatter plans to remain FIFA’s president until an election is held on Feb. 26, 2016.