Robbie Williams swears in World Cup Opening Ceremony 2018: Singer flips middle finger during show leaving football fans reeling

Emma Powell
'Legend': Fans called for Robbie Williams to receive a knighthood: BBC

“Rebel” Robbie Williams left football fans stunned after he flipped his middle finger to the camera while performing at the World Cup Opening Ceremony, viewed by an estimated one billion people.

Williams, 44, performed to a crowd of 80,000 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in a leopard print suit on Thursday ahead of Russia’s first match against Saudi Arabia.

He kicked off his storming set with his 1998 hit Let Me Entertain You before he was joined on stage for a duet of Angels with opera singer Aida Garifullina.

But as he brought the ceremony to a close with his number one hit, Rock DJ, he flipped his middle finger at the cameras.

Viewers were left stunned by the gesture, while others branded him a “legend” and called for him to receive a knighthood.

One fan tweeted: “Did Robbie Williams just put the middle finger up just now or am I bugging??”

Another posted: “Can confirm Robbie Williams just flipped off billions of people on live television what an absolute legend.”

A third wrote: “Imagine having the b******* to do this, an absolutely year 8 move, at the World Cup opening ceremony. Serious credit where it's due to the big man @robbiewilliams.”

Former England star Gary Lineker was unimpressed by the performance, branding the ceremony “rubbish”.

He tweeted: “As World Cup opening ceremonies go that was as rubbish as all the others. Bring on the football.”

Williams – who refrained from singing his controversial single Party Like a Russian – came under fire earlier this week after announcing his performance at the event on Twitter. He posted: “Very excited to be returning to Russia to perform at the opening of the @FIFAWorldCup - tune in early on Thursday for an unforgettable show! #WorldCup.”

Bill Browder, the Head of Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, accused him of ‘selling himself to a dictator’.

He tweeted: “There’s lots of ways to make money @robbiewilliams, but selling your soul to a dictator shouldn’t be one of them. Shame on you.”

Another user posted: “Poor decision Robbie. There’s still time to pull out of gig while maintaining some honour. #BoycottRussia.”

Labour MP Stephen Doughty also condemned his decision to participate in the ceremony, adding: “It is surprising and disappointing to hear that such a great British artist as Robbie Williams, who has been an ally of human rights campaigns and the LGBT+ community, has apparently agreed to be paid by Russia and Fifa to sing at the World Cup opener.”