Robbie Williams to Perform at World Cup Opening Ceremony

Robbie Williams - Getty - H 2018
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Controversy over the British singer's earlier Russian-themed song apparently wasn't an issue for organizers.

British singer Robbie Williams will perform at the opening ceremony of the soccer World Cup in Moscow on Thursday, organizers have announced.

Williams will perform at the World Cup's main stadium, Moscow's Luzhniki, before the opening match in which Russia will take on Saudi Arabia. Local opera diva Aida Garifullina is scheduled to perform.

It's not yet known what song Williams will perform. According to some media reports, it will be his 1997 hit "Let Me Entertain You."

Williams has been chosen despite his Russian-themed song "Party Like a Russian" causing controversy in the country two years ago.

Released in September 2016 and accompanied by a risque video of scantily clad Russian dancers, the song was criticized by some commentators in Russia who accused Williams of pandering to "crude stereotypes of Russians" in the song.

The song — set to a soundtrack that samples Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights" — best known to British TV viewers as the theme tune to The Apprentice — opens with the lines "It takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation/ To alleviate the cash from a whole nation."

Williams has denied the lyrics refer to Russian President Vladimir Putin, or specifically to one of Russia's super-wealthy oligarchs. At the time, he wrote on his website, "It's about hedonism and the spirit of partying." 

"It's not about being Russian, but it's about partying like a Russian. The person singing is a bit me, and a bit of a character," he added.

Meanwhile, in a personal video statement that appeared Monday on YouTube, announcing that he would play at the World Cup opening concert in Moscow, Williams made no reference to the song or controversy.

Sitting on a green sofa casually dressed in a black-and-white tracksuit, Williams says: "Hi guys, I'll be performing at the opening match of the FIFA World Cup  in Russia on Thursday the 14th of June and I'll be singing just before the first match which is Russia versus Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow."

Incidentally, according to Russian media reports, last month Williams performed at a closed corporate party thrown by the mobile phone giant MegaFon during the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

The World Cup in Russia is to run from June 14 to July 15.