Sepp Blatter, a former FIFA president has damned the consequences to attend a World Cup match in Moscow on Wednesday in spite of his ban, saying the tournament in Russia felt like “my World Cup”.
But soccer’s world governing body said his presence did not directly violate his ban from football activities.
Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, is serving a six-year ban from “all football activities” for unethical conduct, after FIFA was rocked by a global corruption scandal in 2015.
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 organisation.
TASS news agency quoted Alexei Sorokin, head of the Russia-2018 organising committee, as saying he had seen Infantino and Blatter at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium watching Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco.
“Today I saw Infantino and Blatter at the stadium, it’s true,” TASS quoted Sorokin as saying.
In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News, Blatter said he had been invited to the World Cup by the Russian organising committee, and FIFA should respect his right to be at the tournament.
“I am not in football activities. I am a personal guest here today,” he said.
“It should not be an embarrassment to FIFA. If FIFA would have a little bit of respect, knowing that I have an official invitation to come here.”
FIFA said that Blatter attending Moscow match did not directly constitute a breach of his ban.
Blatter told Reuters in March he had been invited to attend the World Cup by President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has a long-standing close relationship.
A spokesman for Blatter said he was scheduled to meet with the Russian leader while in Moscow.