HOT OFF THE WIRE

Robbie Williams to kick off World Cup - despite offending Russia in 2016

Robbie Williams to kick off World Cup - despite offending Russia in 2016

  • 11 June 2018
Image copyright BBC / Guy Levy
Image caption The star will perform a duet with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina

Robbie Williams is to open the 2018 World Cup in Moscow - just two years after Russian newspapers said he should be banned from performing there.

The pop star, whose hits include Angels and Let Me Entertain You, will headline the tournament's opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday.

He will perform alongside Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, just half an hour before the first match kicks off.

But he will presumably exclude the song Party Like A Russian from his setlist.

The track, which portrays Russia's elite as unsmiling, super-rich autocrats who party on superyachts and hire thugs to settle disputes by putting "the boots in", was roundly criticised in Russia upon its release in 2016.

A number of Russian media outlets criticised Williams' "offensive" stereotyping, while others predicted he would never play in the country again.

"This will upset those who previously wanted him to perform, who brought him to Moscow, or wanted him to perform at their events abroad," said Sergey Knyazev, a member of the National Association of Event Organizers, in an interview with the Pro-Kremlin channel Life News.