Thousands of protestors gathered in front of the National Stadium in Brasilia, in the nation’s capital, just hours before Brazil was to play Japan in an opening match of the Confederations Cup.
Riot and police squads were called in to keep the demonstrators from clashing with soccer fans that were arriving for the match less than a kilometre away.
The match was not disrupted by the protests, the host nation went on to win the watch 3-0 in front of a crowd of more than 67,000 spectators.
Protestors began chanting and marching toward the venue complaining about the high costs associated with hosting next year’s FIFA World Cup tournament. They believe too much money is being spent on the soccer event while the majority of the population is faced with rising costs and poor social services.
“FIFA, go away,” the protestors chanted while marching with placards stating ‘we don’t want the world cup’, ‘we want money for hospitals and education’ and ‘Health? Education? No! Here everything is for the World Cup.’
“We are demanding more respect to the population,” a 21-year-old protester told reporters. “They are building these overpriced stadiums and are not worrying about the situation of their own people.”
The protestors were also up in arms about being excluded from the world event, which will take place next year because of the high cost of match tickets.
“I’m upset that all public money for construction, hospitals and schools is being used to build stadiums without any utility,” a student-protestor said. “After the World Cup, no one will use this,” she added about the Brasilia – one of the most expensive of the six stadiums built ahead of the World Cup warm-up tournament, at a cost of $600 million.
Protests have become a familiar scene for the South American nation, with small demonstrations observed in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro over the past few weeks after a rise in fares for public transport were announced. What began as relatively small protests have quickly escalated into nationwide unrest.
“It’s absolutely not just about a rise in bus fares, that was just the last straw,” one protestor told journalists.
Hosting the World Cup is expected to cost the small nation some $14 billion in state investments. Lavish funding for the tournament has helped to illustrate the stark contrast between the country’s haves and have not’s.
There is also speculation that the clashes could threaten Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election hopes next year. Social welfare issues highlighted in the protests could hurt the 65-year-old’s chances at the October 2014 elections.
All eyes are on the Latin American nation as it continues preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.