MOSCOW (Reuters) – Disgraced world soccer president Sepp Blatter and the sport’s European head, Michel Platini, will be invited to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Monday.
Blatter and Platini, the two men at the top of the world’s most popular sport, were banned by soccer governing body FIFA for eight years in December over a spate of corruption scandals on their watch that, among other things, raised questions about Russia’s right to host the tournament.
Mutko told Russia’s R-Sport news agency on Sunday that Blatter and Platini were appealing against their bans and still permitted to attend soccer events.
“Formally, the suspension prohibits them from any position in football. But on the other hand, how is that an outstanding player like Michel Platini can’t go to the football?” Mutko was quoted as saying. “We will invite them, I see no problems with the events we are hosting.”
President Vladimir Putin has called Blatter “a very respected person” who had done much for the development of global soccer, fostered it as a form of cooperation between countries and peoples and therefore should get the Nobel Peace Prize.
U.S. prosecutors have charged 41 entities and people including soccer bosses from across the Americas in a case they say involves $200 million in bribes and kickbacks tied to the marketing of major tournaments and matches.
(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Mark Heinrich)