The 2018 FIFA World Cup is just barely underway, but controversy has already erupted.
Now even though FIFA, by all indications, is a cesspool of corruption, this latest incident still managed to drop a few jaws.
The World Cup opening ceremony Thursday included quite a bit of pomp and festivities, including English singer Robbie Williams.
Williams abruptly gave the middle finger in the middle of his performance, prompting a wave of social media reaction.
The pop star was singing in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow prior to the first game of the tournament.
According to ESPN, Williams was told not to use his song “Party Like A Russian.” Pro-Russian media accused the song of making fun of Russian oligarchs.
The singer was lambasted by his own countrymen as several prominent English figures condemned him for agreeing to perform in a country that had been accused of human rights violations.
Some have speculated that Williams’ obscene gesture was a direct response to both Russia and England.
Williams, 44, did not end up performing “Party Like A Russian.” Instead, he performed “Let Me Entertain You,” “Angels” and “Rock DJ.”
The opening ceremony, which was produced by the Russian state media’s Channel One, was about 15 minutes long and a bit more theatrical than in years past.
The World Cup is expected to be watched by hundreds of millions of people. Ostensibly, hundreds of millions of people also just watched Williams flip them off.
The international soccer competition should be a fascinating affair from any number of angles.
Aside from who’ll actually win the whole thing, there are numerous storylines worth tracking. Will American fans care about the World Cup without Team USA playing in it? Will the World Cup be a ratings disaster for Fox after it outbid ESPN for the distribution rights?
Thus far, the answers seem like “yes” and “too early to tell.” Reports indicate Americans have bought the second-most tickets for the World Cup behind only host country Russia, and despite the lack of Team USA, anecdotal evidence suggests that soccer fans are still hyped to watch the event.
The opening ceremony was followed up by the inaugural 2018 World Cup game between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Russia cruised to a 5-0 win.
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