In Brief

Did Putin Use a Picasso from the Hermitage as a World Cup Bribe?

FIFA president Michel Platini (photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis, via Wikimedia Commons)
FIFA president Michel Platini (photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis, via Wikimedia Commons)

Did Valdimir Putin get an assist from Pablo Picasso toward his goal of bringing the 2018 World Cup competition to Russia? According to a British report that has just been made public, former soccer star, president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and executive member of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Michel Platini received a Picasso painting as a bribe in return for supporting Russia’s bid to host the 2018 soccer World Cup.

A report by the team that organized the failed British bid to host the competition in 2018 that was accessed by the Sunday Times found that Platini and another FIFA executive, Michel D’Hooghe, received paintings from members of the committee behind Russia’s bid to host the soccer tournament. The works were taken from the Kremlin’s archives or the permanent collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, according to the report. It also suggests that Putin took a very personal interest in the competition to host the World Cup, and colluded with politicians from Qatar to trade votes and a gas deal so as to ensure that the Emirate would win its bid to host the 2022 Cup, while Russia prevailed as host for 2018. Platini has publicly denied that the report’s accusations have any validity.

“I’d like to point out that the Sunday Times allegations are totally fictitious and the newspaper themselves admit that they don’t have any proof to support this ridiculous rumor,” Platini told the Agence France-Presse. “This affair is now in the hands of my legal advisers in case of any eventual defamation case.”

Beyond the alleged gifting of paintings to win votes — the host of the 2018 World Cup was decided in a secret voting session in Zurich, Switzerland, on December 2, 2010 — the report obtained by the Sunday Times has exposed the vast political and surveillance machinations that go into a World Cup hosting bid.

Prior to his problematic Picasso acquisition, Platini was best known as one of the greatest passers in the history of soccer and the leader of the French national team that won the European championship 1984.

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