Belfast Telegraph

Robbie Williams flips the bird during World Cup opening ceremony performance

The former Take That star said it was his ‘pinch me moment’ to perform at the football tournament in Russia.

Robbie Williams kicked off the World Cup in Russia by performing some of his classic hits at the opening ceremony – and putting his middle finger up at the camera.

The British singer remained true to his word and avoided singing his 2016 song Party Like A Russian, which attracted negative press in the country as the song appears to criticise the excesses of Russian oligarchs.

But he still managed to court controversy when he made a rude gesture at the camera while singing his song Rock DJ, which appeared to take place after ITV stopped airing the performance in the UK.

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Robbie Williams performs at the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup 2018 (Tim Goode/EMPICS Sport/PA)

The former Take That star opened the set by strutting on to the football pitch to the sound of his 1998 single Let Me Entertain You, wearing a red leopard print suit and black shirt.

As he started singing, he was joined on the pitch by dancers clad in football-related costumes, including some with large football-shaped hats and others who were performing tricks with balls.

Russian operatic soprano Aida Garifullina then made her way on to the playing field, riding on what appeared to be a large phoenix.

Williams then sang his other single Feel while the word “Love” was spelled out by dancers on the pitch.

Williams and Garifullina then joined forces for a duet of his single Angels as the crowd at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium sang along.

However, fans watching in the UK were not able to watch his next performance of Rock DJ, as ITV cut back to their studio.

Videos and pictures started to circulate on social media of Williams with his middle finger up at the camera shortly afterwards.

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Robbie Williams and Aida Garifullina perform at the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup 2018 (Tim Goode/EMPICS Sport/PA)

Before taking to the pitch for the opening ceremony, which the singer described as a “pinch me moment”, Williams admitted that he was not feeling too hopeful about England’s efforts in the tournament.

Speaking ahead of his performance, he told ITV, when asked how he thinks England will do: “It’s been disappointing, a lot, being an English supporter.

“Our qualifiers are all sort of boring but we win, and they do the job, and it’s great that they do, but then we get to a World Cup finals and we’ll score a goal within eight minutes – Vardy will put one in or Harry Kane will put one in – and the whole country will go in unison, ‘We’re gonna win the World Cup!’

“And then the opposition will score and it’ll be a 1-1 boring, drab result. And so on and so forth and so it goes … but I’m praying for a miracle.”

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