Date
20 September 2017
A map of Rio de Janeiro is displayed in a security command center. Brazil is preparing for a flood of visitors during the World Cup. Photo: Bloomberg
A map of Rio de Janeiro is displayed in a security command center. Brazil is preparing for a flood of visitors during the World Cup. Photo: Bloomberg

Is Brazil losing its football pride?

Brazilians love football and worship their football heroes.

That is why the sport is big in this South American country of nearly 200 million people and Pele is a national icon 44 years after winning a third World Cup for Brazil and 37 years after he retired.

But the World Cup tournament that opens in Sao Paulo on June 12 is inspiring a mix of emotions and the national team has not been spared the worst of them.

On Monday, they were jeered by protesters as they left a Rio de Janeiro hotel for their training camp 95 kilometers away.

The demonstrators included teachers and young students, typically the most loyal of fans. They pasted the team bus with stickers calling for money to be spent on education rather than stadiums, Bloomberg reports.

Brazil is splashing out US$11 billion in the most expensive World Cup ever, and when it’s all over, it could be on the hook for a lot more as it faces cost overruns and scheduling delays.

Last year, more than one million Brazilians protested against issues such as government spending priorities and corruption during the Confederations Cup, a warm-up for the World Cup.     

Monday’s demonstration had 200 people but the Brazilian team has the support of the population, said Carlos Alberto Parreira, the team’s technical director.

“The national team is a cultural and sporting heritage of the Brazilian people. People are on the side of the national team,” Bloomberg quoted him as saying.

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