Russia President Vladimir Putin has a lot of opinions and he's not afraid to give 'em to you. On Monday, the Russian president's delivered perhaps his most bewildering statement yet: Putin thinks Sepp Blatter should receive the Nobel Prize. And he's not kidding.
Putin praised Blatter, the embattled FIFA president currently ensnared in his organization's corruption scandal, in an interview with Swiss TV. The Russian president reportedly said, "People like Blatter ... deserve special recognition." And no, he wasn't talking about recognition from the U.S. Department of Justice, which indicted 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives in May on charges of corruption, racketeering and conspiracy. Four additional men made guilty pleas with the DOJ, and the investigation into the international soccer organization continues.
"Let's have Nobel Prizes for people like that," Putin reportedly told Swiss TV, adding that heads of international sports organizations like the Olympics committee should receive special prizes. According to BBC News, Putin said in an earlier interview that Blatter himself was not corrupt — an opinion that is probably only held by two people in the world.
"We all know the situation developing around Mr. Blatter right now," Putin said. "I don't want to go into details. but I don't believe a word about him being involved in corruption personally."
This flattery of Blatter, of course, serves as a mighty public relations moment for Putin and his homeland. Russia is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018, having beaten out several Western countries, including England and Spain. In a joint press conference held Saturday at Putin's palace in St. Petersburg, Blatter ensured the Russian people that "we [FIFA] are providing our support" for the 2018 tournament.
Given his current relationship with Western world leaders, Putin's full-hearted support of FIFA seems to be another tactic to agitate the likes of President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and their allies. After all, why wouldn't Putin rub it in England's face that Russia stole the 2018 World Cup from them?
But the biggest slight is to America and the Justice Department, which immediately went after FIFA and its largely suspected corruption. After all these years of shady FIFA deals and Sepp Blatter jokes, the United States was the country to bring FIFA down — that's American exceptionalism for you.
Yet the joke may be on Putin. A separate criminal investigation has been opened by the Swiss authorities, who are also looking into the corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids in Russia and Qatar, respectively. Qatar is in danger of losing the 2022 World Cup, and Russia may further come under fire if investigators find evidence of corruption or racketeering.
But yes, Putin, Blatter definitely, totally, completely deserves that Nobel Prize.
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