British pop star Robbie Williams caused a stir during his performance at the World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow on Thursday by making an obscene gesture to the cameras.
The former Take That frontman raised his middle finger at the end of his performance at the Luzhniki Stadium after appearing to mouth the words “I did this for free”.
The 44-year-old performed the opening show alongside Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, with the two singing a duet of his hit solo song ‘Angels’.
Williams had also sparked controversy in Russia two years ago for promoting stereotypes about the country with his song ‘Party Like a Russian’.
He said when his performance at the ceremony was announced on Monday that it was “a boyhood dream” and would be “an unforgettable show”.
Williams was performing in front of 80,000 people at the stadium, and a global television audience of tens of millions.
The ceremony was followed by the opening match with hosts Russia routing Saudi Arabia 5-0.
Williams performance brought out a mixed reaction on Twitter but the humour, either way, was in tact, with some preferring his show over the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament kicking things off.
The other personality who took centerstage on social media was, of course, Vladimir Putin. The Russian presiden officially opened the tournament and told the 80,000-strong crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium before the match kicked off: “I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world.”
“Love for football unites the entire world in one team, regardless of people’s language or ideology,” Putin said to thunderous cheers.
Later during the match, Putin’s reactions to Russia’s goals alongside Fifa President Gianni Infantino and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman also took Twitter by storm.
Well, the World Cup was off to an interesting start alright.