Robbie may face arrest for obscene gesture
ROBBIE Williams was in hot water last night after giving a one-finger salute to one billion people during the World Cup opening ceremony.
The singer stunned a global TV audience with the offensive gesture after giving a storming performance in front of 80,000 cheering fans in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
As he left the pitch in a striking red suit after singing his hits Let Me Entertain You, Feel and Angels he looked straight into a camera and stuck up his middle finger.
It sent Twitter into meltdown with some fans blasting him for a “lack of morals”.
Others accused him of setting a bad example to children watching.
Last night the former Take That star faced arrest and a possible fine if Russian officials rule the gesture an insult.
The offence was brought in to stop performers making rude gestures during shows. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to 500,000 roubles (£6,000).
A legal source in Moscow said: “It needs to be proved that it was intended to be an insult and an expert has to testify in court that it was an insult.’’
One Russia fan Yvgeny Andiriou said: “If he was making a rude message he should be punished. Our president was there and he doesn’t suffer fools easily.”
Before his memorable performance Williams, 44, had been criticised for taking cash to perform in Russia amid heightened political tension with Britain in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning.
But he said he was fulfilling a “boyhood dream” by kicking off the World Cup – and sang for free.
“I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance,’’ he said.
“I’ve done a lot in my career, and opening the Fifa World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream.’’
He promised to put on an “unforgettable show” and after strutting onto the pitch packed with 800 dancers and acrobats he pulled out all the stops.
After urging the crowd to “bounce, bounce, bounce,” during Let Me Entertain You, Russian operatic soprano Aida Garifullina made her way into the stadium riding on a giant phoenix. As Williams sang Feel the word “Love” was spelled out by dancers on the pitch in front of an audience of dignitaries including Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Williams and Garifullina joined forces for a powerful duet of Angels which had the largely Russian crowd singing along.
World Cup and Brazil legend Ronaldo made an appearance, as did Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova who paraded onto the pitch with the iconic trophy.
Williams did not perform his controversial single Party Like A Russian as the lyrics criticised the country’s oligarchs. But thanks to his finger gesture he failed to steer clear of controversy.
One Twitter user said: “What a joke! Watching with my kids and that happened? Wow.’’
Another added: “Worst opening performance ever at a Fifa World Cup goes to Robbie Williams.’’
While another said: “Why’s he done that? He’s just insulted one billion people.’’ However, another said: “Robbie Williams has accurately conveyed my feeling towards this World Cup.’’
Speaking ahead of his performance, Williams said that he is “praying for a miracle” because he
thinks England’s efforts on the pitch at previous tournaments have been “boring”.
When asked how he thinks England will do, he told ITV: “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 – 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 it goes – but I’m praying for a miracle.”
During the opening game, fans were baffled by ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley’s reference to Joseph Stalin’s moustache as host team Russia unexpectedly thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0.
Tyldesley made the bizarre reference about the Soviet dictator in comparison to Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov’s facial hair.
He also compared a TV presenter to Borat, the comic Kazakhstan character created by Sacha Baron Cohen. Tyldesley said: “Cherchesov’s moustache has been a talking point in Russia. “A TV host here, who actually looks like Borat, has called on Russians to grow ‘taches in support of the coach and the team.”
He added after a short pause: “Stalin had a proper ‘tache.”
Comedian David Baddiel responded on Twitter: “Stalin had a proper ‘tache Clive Tyldesely. Of course he also thought all proper tache was theft.” Another tweeted: “Did Clive Tyldesley just compliment Stalin’s moustache?”
Tyldesley also joked that a Saudi Arabian man seen shaking hands with Putin was “doing an oil deal”.
Robbie Williams gestures at the camera after his memorable performance
Let me entertain you... a red-suited Robbie in full swing surrounded by dancers at the opening of the World Cup in Russia, which had a TV audience of one billion
Flag day... thousands of Russian fans cheered their team to a resounding success
A fan wearing a tiger hat gets into the mood outside the stadium
Model Natalia Vodianova paraded on pitch