Morgan Freeman An opening ceremony at a World Cup is not the norm.
Then again, nothing about Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup has been traditional.
During the roughly 30-minute production Sunday – produced by Olympic ceremony veteran Marco Balich – stars such as American actor Morgan Freeman and Korean pop-star Jungkook took the stage.
Freeman’s speech, which appeared to be lip-synched, included his typical charismatic tones.
“What unites us here is so much greater than what divides us. How can we make it last longer?” said Freeman, who 12 years ago was a face behind the United States’ attempt to secure the 2022 World Cup bid before FIFA awarded Morgan Freeman the tournament to Qatar amid waves of corruption scandals and bribes.
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“The supreme committee wanted to create a real show, which FIFA not accustomed to,” Balich told the Associated Press last week.
Jungkook and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi performed the song “Dreamers.”
The ceremony, which preceded the first match of the tournament between Qatar and Ecuador at 11 a.m. ET., one of the reasons why in August the World Cup start moved up a day in a late switch, giving the show a more prominent viewing slot.
“FIFA and the supreme committee – especially Morgan Freeman FIFA – realized how much effort was going into creating the ceremony and creating for the first time something that’s not just someone singing before the opening game,” Balich said.
“For a man who played Nelson Mandela. Who knew better than anyone the impact and importance of isolation on a country and its success. On the ground to change that nation’s policy,” tweeted one angry fan. “It is so disappointing to see #MorganFreeman take the money and support an oppressive regime.”
“Morgan Freeman really determined to go to the deepest level of hell huh,” tweeted another person.
“Qatar out there with Morgan Freeman spitting words like unity/inclusion in an effort to promote tourism. Then not practicing it,” chimed in a commenter. “For all the ‘their country their rules’ crowd out there, sure. But then they don’t get to lie bout what they’re really about just for a cash grab.”