“From this land, we heard a call to the world to connect, to return if only for a moment to that which can bring us together,” said the distinctive authoritative voice of the Oscar winning actor over a video of desert and ocean scenes kicking off the event. Today was “really the first true opening ceremony at a World Cup, definitely has an Olympic type feel to it,” said Fox Sports’ energetic Rob Stone earlier.
Stone wasn’t wrong, but there was a lot of mixed messages in play too.
“So, we gather here as one big tribe, and Earth is the tent we live in,” intoned a lip-syncing and solemn Freeman on the field of Al Bayt Stadium in the opening minutes of the extravagant opening ceremony.
There was no small irony in the fact that Freeman was such a big part of the United States’ bid for the 2022 World Cup back in 2010. The Shawshank Redemption star was the voice and face of America’s final and ultimately failed pitch in front of FIFA brass for the tournament in Zurich in 2010 — but that’s all in the distant past now obviously.
However, besides Freedman, the real star of the nearly hour-long ceremony had to be BTS’ Jung Kook laying down his new tune “Dreamers” for the 60,000-capacity stadium. Surrounded by dancers, the international superstar and South Korean supporter set the standard for World Cup opening ceremonies to come. Simultaneously, unlike 2018 in Russia, where Robbie Williams raised a certain middle finger to the cameras, there was nothing not going according to script in today’s fast paced and often fawning ceremony.
As 2022 mascot Le’eeb flew around, camels, Bedu, dancers, drums, on field and in the stands graphics, flags galore, and more transformed the newly minted arena into a swirling spectacle. It was a pageant intended to display host Qatar’s best face to the globe after calls of human rights violations, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and beer bans abound. “With tolerance and respect, we can live together,” said one performer addressing the elephant in the tournament without ever actually mentioning it. On Fox Sports they added a chorus of the “beautiful message” to all, though there was scant mention of any of the critics of Qatar, its policies and its tenebrous acquiring of this year’s World Cup.
Oddly, with Qatar about to make its World Cup debut against Ecuador this morning, there wasn’t a lot of football besides a reference to the “beautiful game” by Freeman, a few throwback videos and mascots in this year’s World Cup opener, The Black Eyed Peas did not show up as rumored. Yet, there was a Grammy spanning line-up of Lebanese singer Myriam Fares, singing the official FIFA fan festival anthem, “Tukoh Taka”, along with Nicki Minaj and Maluma, in addition to Bollywood’s Nora Fatehi.
All heading toward the final on December 18 at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT at Lusail Stadium, the 32-team tournament includes current champs France’s Les Blues, as well as current world top team Brazil, which has five World Cup victories the most in history. With baking heat outside, Team USA makes its Group B premiere for this World Cup against Wales on Fox at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on November 21.
So, once World Cup is all over and done, the ball is in your net for 2026, USA, Canada and Mexico.