Morgan Freeman performs at World Cup 2022 opening ceremony in Qatar

He was the actor who once played God himself, but Morgan Freeman has set himself up for a spectacular fall from grace.

The Oscar-winner was a surprising addition to the FIFA World Cup’s opening ceremony in Qatar on Sunday, with his performance raising eyebrows on a number of levels.

All celebrities who have endorsed the Gulf state in the run-up to the contest have come under fire thanks to the country’s shameful record on workers’ rights and its criminalisation of homosexuality.

But Freeman didn’t just help kick off the games, he helped promote the organisers’ staggeringly (and unintentionally) ironic message that “everyone is welcome” there.

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LGBTQ+ people who are caught engaging in same-sex sexual relationships could be punished with up to seven years in jail. Does that sound welcoming to you?

Freeman’s contribution saw him “called” across the stage by Qatari YouTuber Ghanim Al Muftah, and asking: “Am I welcome?”

Al Muftah, who has a rare spinal condition, then responded: “We sent out the call because everyone is welcome, this is an invitation to the whole world.”

The pair then seemed to address some of the criticism levelled at Qatar since it was granted hosting rights to the tournament in 2010, by suggesting other nations should be accepting of the Qatari “way” of doing things.

“Instead of seeing another way, we dismissed it and demanded to see our own way. And now the world seems even more distant and divided,” Freeman said. “How can so many languages and cultures come together if only one way is accepted?”

We believe that LGBTQ+ rights should be accepted everywhere. And no, we won't make any allowances. Sorry, not sorry, Qatar.

The Hollywood star’s sketch was met with vast scepticism and disapproval on social media, with viewers suggesting he was in it for the money but should have put moral and ethical values first:

Others found the production baffling for other reasons, with many pointing to Freeman and Al Muftah’s questionable lip-synching skills:


Freeman’s inclusion in the ceremony was controversial for other reasons, too.

Back in 2010, the Shawshank Redemption icon was the face of the US bid to host the World Cup, but he fluffed his lines during a key presentation.

Freeman famously travelled to Zurich, Switzerland alongside former president Bill Clinton to make the final pitch, but when he was reading his speech for the event he suddenly stumbled.

“I’m sorry, I missed a page,” he said at the time. And ultimately, his home nation lost out on the gig.

Some people think the Qataris deliberately chose to troll their American rivals by recruiting him to their cause. And you can see why.

So, the most contentious world cup has got off to a most contentious start.

Let the games begin...

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