14/06/2018 16:43 BST | Updated 14/06/2018 17:31 BST

Robbie Williams Flips The Bird During Divisive World Cup Opening Ceremony Performance

It was certainly an, erm, interesting performance.

Robbie Williams took on the task of opening the 2018 World Cup on Thursday afternoon and stunned fans around the world by sticking his middle finger up at the camera midway through his set.

The ‘Party Like A Russian’ singer put on a show at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, kicking things off, of course, with a rendition of one of his signature hits, ‘Let Me Entertain You’.

Shaun Botterill via Getty Images
Robbie Willams on stage in Moscow 

At one point, he was joined by footballing legend Ronaldo (who, sadly, didn’t burst into song), as well as Russian harpist Alexander Boldachev.

Operatic singer Aida Garifullina then outdid everyone by arriving on a gigantic mechanical phoenix, before duetting with Robbie on ‘Angels’.

But we imagine Robbie’s performance will be overshadowed somewhat by one small gesture, as the singer decided to deliver an unexpected twist by flipping the bird midway through:

Why? We’re not so sure. 

On the occasions it takes place, the World Cup opening ceremony is traditionally one of the most-watched TV moments of the year, and judging from the first reactions on Twitter, Robbie’s performance is already proving divisive, not least because of his rude gesture... 

Robbie’s set was followed by a speech from Vladimir Putin. Ahead of Thursday’s opening ceremony, many onlookers had criticised Robbie for accepting the gig.

Labour MP Stephen Doughty said (via the Guardian): “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.”

As the Guardian reported, this is not Robbie’s first Russia gig. Earlier this year, he performed at a St Petersburg party being held to celebrate mobile phone company MegaFon, which is owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov.