QAtar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been mired in controversy since it was first announced in 2010.

Concerns over the country’s dismal human rights record, in particular exploitation of migrant workers and persecution of LGBTQ people, cast a shadow over the quadrennial football tournament, staged for the first time in a Muslim-majority country. Allegations of corruption and bribery surrounding Qatar’s bid to host, as well as the massive climatic ramifications of hosting the event in a desert country, have also hampered the tournament.

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In protest, several athletes, celebrities and fans around the world have vowed to boycott the world cupwhich will take place from November 20 to December 18. Those who have said they will stay away from the tournament include British music icons Dua Lipa and Rod Stewart.

But the stakes surrounding this World Cup haven’t stopped other entertainment personalities from showing up in Qatar, and some have already received criticism for their participation in the tournament.

Ahead of Sunday’s first kick-off at Qatar’s Al Bayt Stadium, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman made a surprise appearance, narrating the opening ceremony alongside the FIFA World Cup ambassador and the Qatari YouTube star Ghanim Al Muftah. “We gather here as one great tribe,” Freeman said.

Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman performs during the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar on November 20, 2022.

Robert Michael — picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

South Korean pop singer Jung Kook of K-pop boy group BTS also headlined the ceremony. He sang ‘Dreamers’, his contribution to the 2022 World Cup soundtrack, in front of around 60,000 fans in the stadium and a fair share of the more than 5 billion people expected to watch the tournament on TV or online. . (BTS has advocated for LGBTQ rights, including at the United Nations General Assembly in 2018.)

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Former soccer star David Beckham, a paid ambassador for Qatar 2022, watched the opening ceremony and the first match from the stands. It is to be under fire for promoting the country ahead of the tournament.

Some took to Twitter to express their dismay at the celebrities’ participation. An user interrogates how artists can “perform for a nation that so explicitly violates human rights”. Others called the appearances “disappointing” and “fake”.

Other artists are expected to perform throughout Qatar’s festivities surrounding the month-long World Cup. At FIFA Fan Festival at Al Bidda Park in the capital Doha, among those performing in the coming weeks include American music producers Diplo and Calvin Harris, Jamaican rapper Sean Paul and British electronic band Clean Bandit.

Other artists who showed up in Qatar for state-sponsored concerts during the World Cup include American hip-hop group The Black Eyed PeasColombian reggaeton star J Balvinand English singer Robbie Williamsamong many others.

Williams defended her decision to perform at Doha Golf Club on December 8, telling the Italian magazine It Friday last week that it would be “hypocritical” of him not to go. “I don’t condone any violation of human rights anywhere,” he said. “But, that being said, if we don’t tolerate human rights violations anywhere, then this would be the shortest tour the world has ever seen: I wouldn’t even be able to perform in my own kitchen.”

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