Robbie Williams kicked off the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow, Russia in controversial fashion on Thursday (14Jun18) by flipping the bird at cameras during his hits set.
Appalled soccer fans took to social media to blast the former Take That star after he looked into the camera and showed his middle finger.
Otherwise, Robbie, 44, looked happy and healthy after a recent bout of poor health, as he took the field at Luzhniki Stadium before host nation Russia played Saudi Arabia.
He was joined by an army of colourful dancers representing the nations taking part in the competition, Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, harpist Alexander Boldachev, and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, who performed Angels with the Brit.
Dressed in a red suit and black shirt, slick Robbie also sang Let Me Entertain You, Feel, and Rock DJ, before stating, “Have a great World Cup everybody” to close out the pre-game ceremony.
Prior to the big gig, Robbie told Russian news agency TASS, “I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance. I’ve done a lot in my career, and opening the FIFA World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream.”
Garifullina, who performs with the Vienna State Opera in Austria, was also excited about the prospect of performing as part of the World Cup opening ceremony, adding, “I never imagined I would be part of this huge celebration, the World Cup, happening in my own country.”
Meanwhile, Robbie streamed his preparations for the World Cup gig on Instagram Live, telling fans: “I’m enjoying doing this live stream because it’s taking my mind off what I’m about to do… Wish me luck.”
Reports suggest Jason Derulo had to pull out of the opening ceremony at the last minute due to travel problems en route to Moscow. He had been expected to perform the World Cup’s official song, Colors, at the celebratory bash.
Despite his absence and Robbie’s cheeky onstage antics, fans attending the World Cup kick-off had plenty to celebrate as Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0.