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Robbie Williams gives middle finger to critics (and the rest of the world) during World Cup performance

By | Published on Friday 15 June 2018

Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams responded to critics of his World Cup opening ceremony appearance yesterday. Well, presumably that’s who his middle finger was aimed at.

Williams performed at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium ahead of the first game in that big football kicking festival that has now, well, kicked off. He had been heavily criticised for accepting the booking, given the various controversies involving World Cup-hosting Russia at the moment, with Labour MP John Woodcock accusing the pop star of “handing Vladimir Putin a PR coup”.

Meanwhile, Bill Browder, who heads up the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign, which was set up in the wake of the death of Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, tweeted a message to Williams declaring: “There’s lots of ways to make money, but selling your soul to a dictator shouldn’t be one of them. Shame on you”.

The show, however, went ahead as planned, critics be damned. Though, while performing ‘Rock DJ’, Williams changed some of the lyrics to “I did this for free”, before staring into the camera and flashing his middle finger.

In the US – where middle fingers and sports don’t mix, just ask MIA – the network broadcasting the opening ceremony (and the rest of the World Cup), Fox, quickly issued a statement distancing itself from Williams’ digit.

“The 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony was a newsworthy event produced by a third party and carried live on Fox”, it said. “As it was broadcast live, we did not know what would happen during Robbie Williams’ performance and we apologise”.

Russia went on to win the opening match against Saudi Arabia 5-0. It’s not yet clear how Twitter bots, hackers and fake news makers – let alone Williams’ middle finger – influenced this outcome.