Rob­bie may face ar­rest for ob­scene ges­ture

Daily Express - - COME ON ENGLAND - From Jerry Lawton in Moscow

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).

In­sult

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”.

Pic­tures: MAXIM ZMEYEV/AFP

Rob­bie Wil­liams ges­tures at the cam­era af­ter his mem­o­rable per­for­mance

Pic­tures: DANIEL/PHCIMAGES/COVER

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

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