World Cup 2014: Sao Paulo police fear protests as World Cup start looms

 

Police in Sao Paulo fear protests may disrupt the opening match of the World Cup between hosts Brazil and Croatia at the Arena Corinthians later on Thursday.

A number of campaign groups have issued calls on social media sites for people to take part in protests ahead of the opening ceremony and first match.

The troubled build-up to the tournament means there will be a universal sigh of relief when Brazil's captain Thiago Silva leads his team out against Croatia to finally get the World Cup under way.

All the painful preparations may be put to one side if those in the green and gold shirts of Brazil satisfy the demands of the nation.

This should be the spiritual home of football: a country which has won the World Cup no fewer than five times, that is associated with the very essence of everything the tournament should stand for, and which has not been hosts since 1950.

World Cup opening ceremonies are not the multi-million pound spectaculars that have become associated with the Olympics, but there will be more focus than ever on Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Brazilian pop star Claudia Leitte performing the official World Cup song 'We Are One (Ole Ola)'.

Yet, as Football Association chairman Greg Dyke pointed out, the atmosphere in Sao Paulo has been low key.

Dyke said: "The only reason you'd know there's a World Cup here is because half the people are on strike and you can't get from the airport.

"I'm told there's all sorts of politics. There is real concern about the protesters. Some people don't want Brazil to win because they don't want the government to get re-elected."

Organisers struggled to deal with building delays, the abandonment of transport projects, strikes, deaths of construction workers, political rivalries and not least the widespread protests by a public who has been infuriated by the waste, inefficiencies and costs associated with this World Cup.

But it has not just been the local organising committee and Brazilian government whose laxity has contributed to a barely credible lack of excitement.

The continuing focus on FIFA's governance, the investigation into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and fresh allegations of corruption have all also played a part in provoking a degree of cynicism among swathes of the population in this giant country.

There have been signs of some World Cup fever building in Rio de Janeiro with fans from Argentina, Mexico, Italy and England mixing with home-grown Brazilians on Copacabana beach.

Now everyone is just waiting for the World Cup to begin.

PA

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