World Cup kicks off amid scattered protests

Brazil fans celebrate host country’s win over Croatia in Sao Paulo, hours after police dispersed demonstrators.

Fans dressed in Brazil's yellow, green and blue home colours cheered the country's 3-1 victory [Reuters]

Brazilians have celebrated in the streets after their football team won the World Cup’s opening game, but scattered violent protests were a reminder that many locals remain angry over the billions the country spent to host the tournament.

Millions of fans dressed in Brazil’s yellow, green and blue home colours, cheered throughout Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Croatia in Sao Paulo and continued the revelry into the night on Thursday.

The tournament’s run-up was largely overshadowed by construction delays and months of political unrest with many Brazilians furious over $11bn being spent to host the Cup in a country where hospitals and schools are often poor.

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Protests flared on Thursday in many of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host games, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. Some gathered more than 1,000 people, while others saw just a few dozen.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Sao Paulo, said the mood of celebration was way more prominent than anti-World Cup sentiments.

“The doomsday scenario of tens of thousands of protesters did not materialise and the government is very happy about that,” he said.

Several injured

Late in the morning, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs to disperse demonstrators who gathered in eastern Sao Paulo, about 10km away from the Corinthians arena where the game took place.

After protesters tried to cut off a main road to the stadium, six people were injured, including some journalists, a police spokesman said. Three protesters were arrested.

“The World Cup is a major event of the social injustices that Brazil still has today” Yuri Andrews, a student who protested in Sao Paulo, told Al Jazeera. “We fight against this unfair event that does not benefit the people but only a few.”

More than 10 were arrested in the southern host city of Porto Alegre, a police spokesman said. Demonstrators there overturned a police car and smashed bank windows.  

Roughly 1,000 protesters in Rio de Janeiro marched peacefully, though some burned Brazilian flags and carried signs saying “FIFA go home,” in a reference to the world football body.

Some fans got stranded as ground staff at the city’s three airports went on a brief strike and some flights were cancelled. 

Check-in assistants, baggage handlers, mechanics and engineers were among those taking part in the 24-hour stoppage aimed at pushing calls for higher pay raises. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies