June 19, 2018 / 8:47 AM / 4 months ago

Ex-FIFA head Blatter arrives in Moscow for World Cup

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Banned former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to attend the soccer World Cup, posing for selfies with fans in a hotel lobby before a meeting his spokesman said is scheduled for tomorrow with President Vladimir Putin.

FILE PHOTO: Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures during an interview with Reuters in Zurich, Switzerland April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, is currently serving a six-year ban for unethical conduct after soccer’s world governing body was rocked by a global corruption scandal in 2015.

FILE PHOTO: FIFA's President Sepp Blatter shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) during the preliminary draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia July 25, 2015. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor/File Photo

His appearance at the World Cup in Russia is potentially embarrassing for FIFA and its new head, Gianni Infantino, who has promised to draw a line under FIFA’s corruption problems and clean up the organization.

Blatter arrived in central Moscow by car, walking into a hotel lobby where he spoke briefly to reporters before he was surrounded by fans.

“I’m here to enjoy the World Cup,” he told reporters, smiling.

FILE PHOTO: Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter attends an interview in Zurich, Switzerland April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Blatter will meet Putin on Wednesday, spokesman Thomas Renggli said, and watch Portugal take on Morocco at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.

Blatter told Reuters in March he had been invited to attend the World Cup by Putin, with whom he has a long-standing close relationship, and he was “honored” to accept.

The ban on Blatter from “all football activities” was imposed shortly after the Swiss attorney general’s office began criminal proceedings against him on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation.

No charges have yet been brought and Blatter has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Simon Evans; writing by Jack Stubbs; eiting by Katya Golubkova and Larry King

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