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Disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter crashes World Cup as Vladimir Putin's guest

Disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter crashed the World Cup on Wednesday, despite his status as soccer’s most notorious pariah.

Blatter, suspended from all soccer-related activity until 2021 after being forced out of the game’s elite administrative circles following allegations of widespread corruption and bribery, flew into Moscow to accept an invitation from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

His ban from FIFA does not, however, prevent him from attending games. A Blatter aide said he would be present at Portugal’s Group B clash with Morocco on Wednesday afternoon. Blatter admitted that he was hoping for a personal meeting with Putin during the visit.

“I am the guest of the organizing committee, but they will make an arrangement to see the president if it were possible,” Blatter told reporters at the Moscow hotel where he will be based during his time in Russia. 

“I am a guest,” Blatter added. “I take the program they are offering to me, and I am happy to be here.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Putin and Blatter would meet but stated that their interaction would not be part of “official” presidential business.

“Any meetings…are being realized in the framework of his private visit,” Peskov told reporters.

Blatter’s presence in Russia, especially coming at the behest of Putin, is likely to cause significant embarrassment to FIFA, which is trying desperately to move beyond its tainted past.

Before the Portugal-Morocco game, Blatter was interviewed by Russian state broadcaster RT and spoke glowingly of a bright future for Russian soccer, before climbing into a luxury vehicle and heading to Luzhniki Stadium. The aide confirmed that he would attend the match, as well as Brazil-Costa Rica in St. Petersburg on Friday.

Blatter was in charge of FIFA when Russia was awarded hosting rights to this World Cup in 2010 and forged a friendship with Putin. Now 82, he has rarely traveled outside his native Switzerland since leaving his post as FIFA president.


Source: USA TODAY

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