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Arab Idol winner Mohammad Assaf to perform at FIFA Congress

The football governing body’s original decision to ban the Palestinian singer may have been a ‘poltiical issue’

Published: Updated:

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 - becoming the first Arab singer to perform at such an event.

Assaf - a 24-year-old former wedding singer from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip - told journalists in Gaza on Friday that he had been banned by FIFA from performing at the World Cup.

And in an interview published Sunday in UAE-based daily The National, Assaf said that FIFA’s original backtracking on its invitation may have been a “political issue” on the part of the football governing body.

“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.

Standing invitation

“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.

In the interview, Assaf recalled a remark from FIFA chief Sepp Blatter during a visit to Ramallah shortly after winning Arab Idol.

“’Mohammed, I am going to invite you to sing in the World Cup ceremony,’” Assaf recalled Blatter as saying.

Although reported by the newspaper as feeling “snubbed” due to him not being invited to perform on the bigger state of the opening ceremony, the singer said that, nevertheless, it was a “great feeling to take something from the Arab world to the World Cup.”

Assaf360

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

At the FIFA Congress, Assaf will perform his latest single, entitled Assaf360, which was recorded in a live 24-hour session in Dubai last week with renowned American producer Rodney Jerkins.

In a new twist, fans of the singer got involved in its creation by tweeting possible lyrics to add to the single.

After winning MBC’s TV talent contest show Arab Idol last year, Assaf, the first victorious Palestinian on the program, became the U.N.’s first Palestinian goodwill ambassador.