Spir­its high in Rus­sia as home na­tion kicks off with big vic­tory

World Cup: Singer makes rude ges­ture, but can’t up­stage Putin

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - FRONT PAGE -

Rob­bie Williams marred what had been a vin­tage per­for­mance of his great­est hits dur­ing the World Cup’s open­ing cer­e­mony by show­ing his mid­dle fin­ger to the cam­era.

The for­mer Take That singer was the star turn of a colour­ful, 15-minute per­for­mance which fea­tured a duet of An­gels with Rus­sian so­prano Aida Gar­i­ful­lina, lots of dancers and Brazil­ian foot­ball star Ron­aldo.

Williams made the of­fen­sive ges­ture dur­ing his last song, Rock DJ, hav­ing opened with Let Me En­ter­tain You and Feel, which meant he de­cided not to per­form Party Like a Rus­sian, the song which lam­poons oli­garchs.

De­spite the ill-man­nered sign-off, the Rus­sian crowd ap­peared to love the 44-year-old’s show­man­ship and many in the crowd knew the lyrics.

Within min­utes of the Port Vale fan leav­ing the pitch, the real main man here took cen­tre stage: Vladimir Putin.

The Rus­sian pres­i­dent started by wel­com­ing sports fans around the globe to a “splen­did foot­ball fes­ti­val in a hos­pitable and friendly coun­try”.

Putin said “Rus­sians love foot­ball” and for them it had been “love at first ever since the first of­fi­cial game in 1897”.

How­ever, in a speech that went on longer than usual for these oc­ca­sions, Putin made sev­eral veiled ref­er­ences to the coun­try’s iso­la­tion on the global stage af­ter a se­ries of diplo­matic crises.

He talked about “sport’s hu­man­is­tic value” and its power for sup­port­ing “peace and un­der­stand­ing be­tween na­tions”. By this point some in the Luzh­niki Sta­dium were get­ting rest­less but no­body had the courage to tell him to hurry up.

FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino spoke next, in Rus­sian, English and Ara­bic, a ges­ture warmly greeted by Rus­sia’s and Saudi Ara­bia’s fans. World Cup cov­er­age, Sport Com­ment, Page 25

A heavy se­cu­rity pres­ence out­side the sta­dium for the open­ing cer­e­mony

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