12/06/2018 15:19 SAST | Updated 12/06/2018 15:22 SAST

WTF? Robbie Williams To Perform For Putin At World Cup

Just two years ago, Williams' track 'Party like a Russian' saw calls to have him banned from performing in Russia. Now he's there on the biggest stage of all.

"Ain't no refutin' or disputin' — I'm a modern Rasputin..."

We don't know how Russian president Vladimir Putin will feel about Robbie Williams performing at the opening of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow — just two years after Russian media were calling for the British pop star to be banned from performing in that country, thanks to his 2016 song, "Party Like A Russian".

The 2016 song was deemed "offensive and stereotypical" by the Russian media, according to The Guardian — largely because it compared Putin to the "mad monk" Rasputin, who was a ruthless centre of power in Moscow's imperial politics shortly before the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Some of the lyrics read:

It takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation, to alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation, take my loose change and build my own space station, just because you can, man. Ain't no refutin' or disputin' – I'm a modern RasputinRobbie Williams, 2016 'Party Like A Russian'

It seems all the controversy has been put to bed, however, as 44-year-old Williams will perform in front of Putin at a packed 80,000 Luzhniki Stadium on the June 14, to open the World Cup.

He will be singing alongside Russian artist Aida Garifullina in the opening ceremony of the biggest sporting event on global television.

It may come as a surprise to many that Williams was chosen to perform, as he is no longer the global superstar he once was — now based in Los Angeles, he's barely even considered a celebrity in his native Britain anymore.

However, consider the various allegations laid against Putin in recent years — from the Crimean invasion and Russian forces shooting down a passenger jet over Ukraine, to involvement in Syria's brutal civil war and allegations that he is behind the murder of various opponents and Russian journalists around the world — the World Cup opening performance may be too much of a political hot potato for any bigger stars to contemplate.

It may well be that organisers were just happy to find anyone who was once globally famous — and also prepared to perform for the former KGB agent-turned-Kremlin strongman — no matter how much his celebrity star has waned of late.

STR via Getty Images

How will Putin react to Williams' performance? We'll know on Thursday, when the 2018 Fifa World Cup gets underway in Moscow.