Brazil World Cup Champ Calls for Hospitals Instead of Cup

A member of Brazil’s team that won the 2002 World Cup, Rivaldo Ferreira, took to Twitter this week to support protesters who say the 30 billion reais ($13.3 billion) being spent on next year’s tournament should go to social services.

“It’s shameful to spend so much money for this World Cup and leave the hospitals and schools in such a precarious state,” posted Rivaldo, who said his father was hit by a car and died after failing to receive medical attention in a public hospital. “At this moment we aren’t in shape to host the World Cup, we don’t need it, we need education and health.”

Protests initially staged in response to higher bus fares have expanded to include issues from government corruption to lack of adequate public services. While mayors of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities rolled back the fare increases, demonstrations are scheduled tonight across the country. The protests are taking place during the FIFA Confederations Cup, which is being played in six new or renovated stadiums.

In a video posted online yesterday, soccer legend Pele called on Brazilians to “forget all this confusion that’s happening in Brazil” and refrain from booing the national squad, which yesterday beat Mexico in Fortaleza.

Inside the arena, fans held up signs saying demonstrations were against corruption, not the country’s squad. The signs bore one of the movement’s slogans: “The giant has awakened,” a reference to Brazil’s national anthem.

Ronaldo Approves

Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, a two-time World Cup winner and three-time recipient of FIFA’s player of the year award, posted on his Twitter account that he has been proud to see the protests and hopes they serve to improve management of public funds.

Ronaldo, a member of the local organizing committee for the 2014 World Cup, also wrote he doubts Brazil would be any better off had it not decided to host the tournament.

Romario de Souza Faria, a striker who won the Golden Ball award in Brazil’s 1994 World Cup win and is now a federal deputy, railed against Pele’s video in a press conference.

“Pele has absolutely no idea what’s going on in this country, so he can’t speak such nonsense,” said Romario, who has sparred publicly with Pele in the past. “He needs to shut his mouth.”

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., the phenomenon who in May signed a deal worth 171 million reais to transfer to FC Barcelona, wrote on his Facebook page before taking the field yesterday that the protest movement had inspired him to play.

“I’m sad about everything that’s happening in Brazil,” Neymar wrote in the post that garnered more than 100,000 ’likes.’ “I always had faith that it wouldn’t be necessary to reach the point where we need to go to the streets to demand better transport, health, education and security, all that is required of the government.”

Neymar netted one goal and one assist in Brazil’s 2-0 victory, its second thus far in the tournament.

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