Morgan Freeman leads Qatar 2022 official opening ceremony as World Cup kicks off

The 2022 World Cup has officially kicked off. ITV News sports editor Steve Scott reports from Qatar's official opening ceremony

Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman has led Qatar's official opening ceremony as the Gulf state launched the 2022 World Cup.

The Oscar-winning actor, known for his roles in The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, narrated the opening ceremony initially on a video before appearing in the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium in Doha.

He told the crowd: “We gather here as one big tribe and Earth is the tent we all live in.”

Men dancing with swords, camels and a parade of World Cup mascots also featured in the ceremony to open the competition controversially awarded to Qatar.

But it was a disappointing end to the night for the hosts as Ecuador condemned them to a 2-0 defeat in Qatar's opening match.

Watch Qatar's FIFA World Cup 2022 opening ceremony fireworks

Qatar has spent more than 200 billion US dollars (£177.7 billion) on infrastructure since 2010.

Launching its party on Sunday night, Dreamers, from the official World Cup soundtrack, was performed by BTS superstar Jung Kook and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi.

The lyrics include: “Look who we are, we are the dreamers, we’ll make it happen because we believe it.”

Freeman appeared later in the ceremony to tell the crowd: “Football spans the world, unites nations in their love of the beautiful game.

“What brings together nations also brings together communities.

“We all have a story on football and how it brought us together and this land has a story of its very own.”

The actor extended one hand to a FIFA World Cup ambassador suffering from a rare spinal disorder in an image meant to represent inclusion in a country facing international criticism over its human rights record.

ITV News reporter Chris Skudder tracks England's and Wales' preparations for their first World Cup clashes on Monday

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in attendance alongside Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the driving force behind the country’s World Cup bid.

It came the day after Infantino sparked controversy with his "I feel gay" speech in which he poured scorn on Western criticism of Qatar's World Cup.

FIFA's choice of host nation has been widely condemned due to its hardline anti-LGBT laws and treatment of migrant workers.

British comedian Joe Lycett appeared to shred £10,000 in a livestream on Sunday, after former football star David Beckham failed to respond to his deadline to pull out of his Qatar ambassadorship.

The comedian branded the former England and Manchester United Star a 'gay icon' and urged him to walk away from the reported multimillion-pond deal.

David Beckham was silent on Saturday as ITV News asked him if he regretted his Qatari ambassadorship

England and Wales are among teams whose players are choosing to wear One Love armbands at the World Cup, in a symbol of support for LGBT+ communities, despite the move not being approved by FIFA.

England manager Gareth Southgate also confirmed on Sunday that players would take the knee at World Cup matches.

Southgate said of the anti-racism gesture: “We think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world for young people, in particular, to see that inclusivity is very important.”

Harry Kane will be wearing a One Love armband at the World Cup. Credit: PA

Qatar 2022 World Cup opening highlights

  • England's first game of the 2022 World Cup is against Iran on Monday, 21 November at the Khalifa International Stadium. The game is kicking off at 1pm (GMT).

  • Wales plays the USA on Monday 21 November 2022 at 7pm (GMT) in a match that will be broadcast on ITV1, and played at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.