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Palestinian Arab Idol winner to sing at World Cup congress

Assaf will sing at World Cup Congress on 10 June in Sao Paulo after FIFA controversial backtracking of initial invite to sing at opening
Palestinian performer Mohammed Assaf at a rehearsal for Arab Idol talent show (AFP)

Arab Idol winner Mohammad Assaf will sing at the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress in Brazil, scheduled to start two days before the start of the World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Assaf will be the first Arab singer to perform at such an event.

The 24-year-old Gazan singer told journalists in the Strip on Friday that he had been banned by FIFA from performing at the World Cup.

In an interview published Sunday in the daily The National, Assaf said that FIFA’s backtracking on the original invitation may have been politically motivated.

“It seems to me that it could have been a political issue, maybe because I am a Palestinian and some people were disturbed that a person such as myself can perform in such an event,” said Assaf.

After receiving an initial invitation, Assaf stated that the invitation was revoked without giving specific reasons for the decision, only to be confirmed a couple of days later.

“I spoke out about this to the press and a few days later another letter from Fifa came that said the invitation to perform in the World Cup still stands but now I am performing in the opening of the FIFA Congress two days before the World Cup ceremony,” he added.

Assaf was quote by The National saying that the invitation to sing at the World Cup came during FIFA chief Sepp Blatter’s visit to Ramallah shortly after Assaf won Arab Idol.

“’Mohammed, I am going to invite you to sing in the World Cup ceremony,’” Assaf recalled Blatter saying as Assaf’s fans waved at him during a car ride he shared with Blatter.

Although reported feeling disappointed with FIFA for not allowing him to perform on the bigger stage of the World Cup opening ceremony, the singer said that, nevertheless, it was a “great feeling to take something from the Arab world to the World Cup.”

The FIFA congress will be held on 10 June, while the World Cup’s opening ceremony is scheduled for 12 June.

At the Congress, Assaf will perform his latest single, titled Assaf360, which was recorded at a live 24-hour session in Dubai last week with renowned American producer Rodney Jerkins and lyricist Nizar Francis. During the recording, Assaf’s fans got involved in the creation by tweeting lyrics to add to the single.

After winning MBC’s TV talent contest show Arab Idol in 2013, Assaf became the UN’s first Palestinian goodwill ambassador.

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