x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Mohammed Assaf excited about performing at Fifa Congress

Mohammed Assaf is excited to perform his new World Cup anthem in Brazil – a song he created with the help of his fans.

Mohammed Assaf in the studio before recording his new song which will be performed at the opening cermony of the 65th FIFA congess event in Sao Paulo, Brazil. AFP
Mohammed Assaf in the studio before recording his new song which will be performed at the opening cermony of the 65th FIFA congess event in Sao Paulo, Brazil. AFP

Mohammed Assaf is on his way to Brazil, where he will perform on Tuesday as part of the opening ceremony of the Fifa Congress in São Paulo – making him the first Arab singer to take part in a Fifa event.

His song, Assaf360, was recorded in a live 24-hour session in Dubai last Tuesday with the leading American producer Rodney Jerkins. And fans got involved by tweeting suggested lyrics.

While happy with the high energy of the track and the collaborative spirit, Assaf expresses some disappointment at Fifa, which he feels snubbed him by not letting him perform on the bigger stage of the World Cup Opening Ceremony on Thursday.

You are performing Assaf360 for the first time at the Fifa Congress and it’s being broadcast live on the Fifa website to a global audience. Does such a global event make you nervous about taking the stage?

There will be nerves as this is a new song being performed live. But what makes it easier for me is that the song was built together with my colleagues and the fans. It will be a great feeling to take something from the Arab world to the World Cup.

How did you get involved in performing as part of the Fifa Congress Opening Ceremony?

The story goes back to just after I won Arab Idol in 2013, when I was back in Ramallah [in Palestine]. At that time, the head of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, also visited Ramallah with a delegation from the Palestinian Football Federation and he said he followed my progress in the programme. We were in a car going down the road and he saw how the youth were waving at me and cheering me on as we passed and then he said: “Mohammed, I am going to invite you to sing in the World Cup ceremony,” and it all started from there.

Then, controversially, the offer was rescinded – is that true?

Indeed this did occur, in that Sepp Blatter told me that I would sing in the opening ceremony. Then not long after a letter came from Fifa to my record label [Platinum Records] saying this was not going to happen anymore and they apologised. Now I was concerned about that because this came after a press conference in Palestine where Mr Blatter said I would perform as part of the World Cup.

Did that letter give any specific reason for you being taken off the bill?

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. 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.

Is there also any truth to the suggestions that Shakira has declined to perform as part of the World Cup opening ceremony because of your omission from the event?

I heard about that in the press, to be honest, so the information could be wrong. Then again, Shakira already released a World Cup song so I don’t know if she is performing in the ceremony. We didn’t speak to each other about our collaboration – it went through Mr Blatter, who told me there would be a duet between us.

Any word about the status of your debut album?

I have been working on the album and I can tell you that 90 per cent is done and I plan to release it, God willing, just after Eid Al Fitr. By the end of this month I will be shooting a new video clip for one of the songs.

Mohammed Assaf’s performance as part of the opening ceremony of the Fifa Congress in São Paulo will be broadcast live on www.fifa.com on Tuesday. Broadcast details to be revealed on www.fifa.com. MBC will screen the event on Wednesday. For details go to www.mbc.net

sasaeed@thenational.ae