Robbie Williams will perform at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, just ahead of the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The singer will be joined by Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, and – presumably not on vocals – former Brazilian international Ronaldo, part of the winning teams in 1994 and 2002.
Williams said he was “happy and excited” and that the performance was the fulfilment of a boyhood dream, promising an “unforgettable show”. The former Take That star is a keen footballer – on Sunday he led an England side to victory in the Soccer Aid charity football event, featuring other stars including Usain Bolt and Mo Farah. He also founded the LA Vale football team while living in Los Angeles.
His Moscow performance comes two years on from his tongue-in-cheek single Party Like a Russian, which offended some Russian listeners with its lyrics about an oligarch: “Alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation / Take my loose change and build my own space station.”
Fifa says the opening ceremony will take place much closer to kick-off than usual, just 30 minutes before the start of the opening match. There has been no mention of a performance of the official World Cup song, Live It Up, featuring film star Will Smith, Colombia-based pop star Nicky Jam, and Kosovan singer Era Istrefi.
Ronaldo called the opening match “very symbolic … After so much hard work, suddenly the whole world is gathered in your backyard to celebrate their love for football. I felt that in Brazil four years ago and I am now happy to share this excitement with the Russians as well.”