Brazil's World Cup squad has to run gauntlet of angry protestors
National team runs gauntlet of people angry at billions spent on tournament as they travel to their multimillion-dollar training base
Brazil's team ran a gauntlet of protesters as they reported for World Cup training against a backdrop of public anger over spending on the tournament.
"An educator is worth more than Neymar," chanted a group of 200 striking teachers as the team bus edged through the protesters on its way from Rio de Janeiro's airport to the base camp where the squad will train before playing Croatia in the World Cup opening match on June 12.
Despite a heavy police presence, the demonstrators managed to hold up the team's convoy long enough to plant anti-World Cup stickers on their bus.
At the squad's training complex, where they were met by more protests, technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira downplayed the demonstrations and said Brazilians overwhelmingly supported the team.
"Make of it what you will, I believe the team is the cultural and sporting heritage of the Brazilian people. The people are going to support the team throughout the World Cup, I don't have the slightest doubt of that. No one is against the selecao," said Parreira, who coached Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning team.
"What I saw during the 100-kilometre drive to get here, when the team stopped, there were people supporting and applauding them, the people were encouraging them the entire time."
Football is a national passion in Brazil, and the national squad, which has won an unmatched five World Cups, is widely revered.
But it was the protesters who seized the media's attention, greeting the squad with their trademark slogan, "There will be no Cup!"
Some tried to block the team bus from leaving Rio, but the driver dodged them and accelerated away.
"I hope the marking at the Cup won't be as tight as here," joked goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
The teachers went on strike in Rio state on May 12, demanding a 20 per cent salary increase.
Even diehard fans who had turned out to greet the team and wave the flag amid tight security around the training complex were frustrated as they barely got a glimpse of their heroes, hidden behind tinted glass.
"I came from Mage [about 40km away] especially to see Neymar, but unfortunately I couldn't see anything. What a shame - the bus just sped past," said Marineide, 40, who had come with her two daughters.
To ensure Brazil have the best possible conditions to prepare, the CBF earlier this year gave a multimillion-dollar facelift to the Granja Comary training complex in Teresopolis.
The facilities include 39 individual rooms with king-size beds and several full-size pitches where coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will prepare.
But such luxurious details have angered a populace demanding urgent investment in infrastructure, health and education.
A small group of protesters gathered outside the facility, where one banner read, in English: "Billions for the Fifa World Cup, no housing for the victims of the heavy rains [of] 2011. Do you think it is fair?"
Torrential rain claimed more than 900 lives in the Teresopolis region days after President Dilma Rousseff took office.
Rosangela Castro, a local teacher, said: "It is a real scandal they spent more than 15 million reais (HK$52 million) to refurbish this training centre and billions on the World Cup."
Police will stand guard 24 hours a day at Granja Comary to ward off any trouble.
Brazil has been hit by a wave of strikes and protests ahead of the World Cup and elections in October. Police, teachers, bank security guards and bus drivers have staged disruptive strikes in recent weeks.