The start of preparations by Brazil’s national team for the soccer World Cup were marred by protests yesterday as the players seek to win the tournament at home for the first time.
The squad led by Barcelona forward Neymar was jeered by protesters as it departed from a Rio de Janeiro hotel toward its training camp in Teresopolis, about 95 kilometers (59 miles) from the beach-side city, TV images showed. Demonstrators including teachers waved banners criticizing the tournament, pasting the team’s bus with stickers that call for money to be spent on education rather than stadiums.
Brazil is spending about $11 billion to stage the World Cup from June 12 to July 13, with preparations marred by cost overruns and scheduling delays as it builds or refurbishes 12 arenas for the tournament. More than 1 million Brazilians in June last year protested against issues such as government spending priorities and corruption during the Confederations Cup, a warm-up for the World Cup.
There were no more than 200 people demonstrating yesterday and the Brazilian team has the support of the population, Carlos Alberto Parreira, the team’s technical director, told reporters at the training camp.
“The national team is a cultural and sporting heritage of the Brazilian people,” he said. “People are on the side of the national team.”
Soccer is Brazil’s national passion and a record number of domestic fans applied for tickets as the national team tries to secure a record-extending sixth World Cup championship. President Dilma Rousseff during public appearances repeatedly pledges Brazil will host the “cup of cups.”
Neymar wrote on his Facebook page in June last year the demonstrations were an inspiration to him during the Confederations Cup, which Brazil won. Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, a two-time World Cup winner, wrote on his Twitter account at the time that he has been proud to see the marches and hoped they would serve to improve management of public funds.