October 23 – Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been invited to next year’s World Cup by Russian president Vladimir Putin and says he will accept even though he is still banned for six years after being found guilty of authorising a “disloyal payment” of $2 million to then UEFA president Michel Platini.
Blatter was in charge in 2010 when Russia and Qatar were awarded host rights to the 2018 and 2022 finals respectively.
“I will go to the World Cup in Russia. I received an invitation from President Putin,” Blatter told AFP. “I don’t know how long I will go for, whether I will be there for the opening match or the final.
“Because I can’t work in football and I don’t have an assignment to do, maybe I will only make a short visit.”
The 81-year-old remains the subject of a Swiss investigation over allegations of criminal mismanagement during his 17-year reign at the head of FIFA. He denies any wrongdoing.
Blatter and Platini are free to attend the World Cup provided they have no official capacity and a Kremlin spokesman confirmed that both will be welcomed. “You know that Putin and Blatter have for a long time been, you could say, friends,” he said.
Russia and Qatar were cleared of corruption allegations in the infamous Garcia Report, published in 2014, but are subject of ongoing Swiss probes into possible bribery and corruption that may have led to them winning hosting rights.
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