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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup chit-chat: Sao Paulo metro strike suspended, but fears loom

World Cup chit-chat: Sao Paulo metro strike suspended, but fears loom

Last updated on: June 10, 2014 14:29 IST

World Cup chit-chat: Sao Paulo metro strike suspended, but fears loom

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Subway workers late on Monday suspended a strike that crippled traffic in Brazil's biggest city, but warned they could resume their walkout on Thursday, when Sao Paulo hosts the first game of the soccer World Cup.

Fans arriving in the city earlier Monday were met by daunting traffic jams and other delays after police used tear gas to disperse the striking workers. It was the fifth day of salary protests. Union leaders and local authorities are to renew negotiations on Wednesday.

The walk-out added to widespread concerns over whether Brazil's government can prevent street protests and other simmering labor disputes from disrupting the Cup, which starts on Thursday when Brazil and Croatia face off at a controversial new stadium on Sao Paulo's long-neglected east side.

The strike caused giant traffic jams again on Monday, creating huge delays for soccer fans trying to get into the city. Many waited for around two hours in lines for taxis at the city's international airport and spent another two or three hours to reach their hotels.

"If this continues, it'll be chaos," said Miguel Jimenez, a fan from Mexico.

Sao Paulo, also Brazil's business hub, will host five matches after the opener, including a semi-final.

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Image: Public transportation users invade subway tracks in the Corinthians Itaquera station, near Arena Corinthians stadium where the opening of the FIFA Soccer World Cup will take place
Photographs: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

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Sao Paulo metro strike suspended, but fears loom

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Brazil has drawn criticism at home and abroad for failing to complete key infrastructure projects on time. It is expected to put on a good World Cup, but many Brazilians are angry over how much was spent and how the country still struggled to be ready.

"We've known this (the Cup) was going to happen for years, but nobody solved these problems," said Ricardo Fars, a Brazilian manager for a technology company who returned to Sao Paulo from a business trip in Peru on Monday and waited at least two hours for a taxi.

Police fired tear gas at metro workers at the city's Ana Rosa station on Monday morning, and the state metro company later said it had fired 42 striking workers. Union officials late on Monday said the success of continued negotiations, and any decision to resume the strike, would hinge on whether the dismissed workers are rehired. A local court ruled on Sunday that the strike was illegal. Workers are pushing for a 12 percent pay rise, well above the company's offer of 8.7 percent.

Other groups, including teachers and bus drivers, have staged strikes in Sao Paulo in recent weeks to demand higher pay. Analysts say the city is becoming a battlefield for dissenting political views, hurting its economy and creating a climate of unease ahead of the World Cup.

Frustration with broken promises and the ballooning cost of new World Cup stadiums contributed to widespread protests that drew over a million Brazilians into the streets during a soccer tournament last year.

World Cup organizers got a boost on Monday, however, when the homeless worker's movement, which has organized most of the protests of recent weeks, said it had reached an agreement with the government and would not take to the streets during the tournament.

In a statement, Brazil's government late Monday said it had agreed to build public housing units near the stadium as one of several concessions to the group.

In Sao Paulo, traffic peaked in the morning rush hour near record levels before easing up as the day progressed. By early evening, however, it looked sure to worsen again after part of a monorail under construction collapsed on to a busy thoroughfare below, killing at least one passerby, local television reported.

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Image: An assembly of Sao Paulo's metro workers debate whether to continue their strike
Photographs: Chico Ferreira/Brazil/Reuters

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Mexico team cab it to practice after bus dies down!

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Cab please!

Stranded when their bus broke down outside their hotel in Brazil's Santos on Monday, Mexico's squad had to pile into taxis to get to practice.

"Our bus has shrunk, hahahahaha," Mexican captain Rafael Marquez said on his Twitter account, posting a selfie of himself along with Marco Fabian, Hector Herrera and Alfredo Talavera in a taxi.

Mexico are aiming to reach their first World Cup quarter-final since 1986.

In their first World Cup game on Friday, Mexico will face Cameroon in Group A. On June 17, they play Brazil, and on June 23, complete their group matches against Croatia.

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Image: Rafael Marquez (left) and Paul Aguilar of Mexico enjoy a laugh during a team training session
Photographs: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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Apps introduced to keep fans clued to the action!

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Soccer fans eager to stay in the loop and follow their favorite teams and players during World Cup in Brazil can keep up with the action on their smartphones using apps created for the tournament.

Thirty-two national teams will compete in the World Cup, organized by the world soccer body FIFA, in 12 host cities during the competition that begins on Thursday and runs to July 13.

“Brazil is known for being the land of football, and now we host the biggest sporting event on the planet. The benefits are already being felt,” said a spokesman for the Special Secretariat of the World Cup (Secopa), which is coordinating the competition in the state of Ceará in northeastern Brazil.

The new apps join a cornucopia of ways to follow the cup, including television and the Internet.

OneFootball Brasil, a company based in Berlin, has developed a new app for the 2014 World Cup for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone that provides scores and game news about fans' favorite teams and players.

“Soccer fans have a strong attachment to their teams and countries, and want to be there to cheer for them and feel like they’ve actually had a part in making their team win,” said Jonathan Lavigne, the company's chief technology officer.

Users can pick a team, and the app creates a personalized feed of news, statistics and scores, along with push notifications for real-time updates.

The free app, which is available worldwide in 15 languages, also includes real-time, minute-by-minute commentary on games, match schedules, data on each player, and news and commentary on games and teams.

“Recently, our key player got injured and won’t play in the World Cup, for example. This is addictive and emotional information that I need to know as a fan right when it happens,” Lavigne explained.

Fans in the United States can stream all 64 games live on their smartphones with WatchESPN for Android, iOS, and Windows 8 with a cable subscription, and for free in Canada with the CBC 2014 FIFA World Cup app for iPhone and Android.

FIFA also has a free, official app, called FIFA, for iOS and Android. It provides scores, game schedules, headlines, photos and videos.

“The World Cup is the premier sporting event in the world, even bigger than the Olympics,” said Jonathan Savage, senior vice president at TheScore, based in Toronto.

The TheScore app is available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry 10 devices worldwide in English. It enables soccer fans to track teams and players in a real-time personalized feed. Users can follow the World Cup League and customize the notifications they receive, including goals, red cards, half-time scores and match start and end times.

A total of 204 teams across six continents competed for a spot at the 2014 World Cup. Brazil has won the competition, which is held every four years, five times, according to FIFA.

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Image: World Cup themed drinks can coolers on display in Rio de Janeiro
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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Former Brazilian captain accused of homophobia

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Ex-Brazil captain Lucio, who has been accused of homophobia after allegedly taunting a rival as being "gay" in a Brazilian first division match, will this week front FIFA's pre-World Cup anti-discrimination campaign.

Botafogo forward Emerson accused Lucio of "calling me gay, as if I were a monster" during the Botafogo-Palmeiras clash on May 28. He made the comments on television after the players clashed in Botafogo’s 2-0 win.

Lucio responded by telling reporters, "If he said I said that then he should prove it."

Lucio, a high-profile evangelical Christian who was a member of the Brazil team that won the 2002 World Cup, was chosen to front FIFA’s campaign that kicks off this week ahead of the 2014 tournament.

The campaign encourages fans to post selfies on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #SayNoToRacism.

"A random selection of (these) will be shown before kick-off on the giant screens in the stadiums before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil quarter-finals (Brasilia national stadium, Fonte Nova arena, Castelao arena and Maracana)," FIFA said.

Lucio is pictured holding the hashtag, as are several other players and former players, including Kevin-Prince Boateng, Roque Junior, Joseph-Antoine Bell and Dragan Stojkovic.

The anti-racism drive is part of a larger campaign aimed at highlighting FIFA's commitment to “global football development and to raise awareness in the fight against discrimination and match manipulation,” the governing body said.

FIFA did not return emails or calls asking for comment on Lucio's inclusion in the campaign.

Emerson last year became one of the few players to take a stand on homophobia in the game by posting a photo on Instagram of him kissing a friend over the table in a Sao Paulo restaurant.

He said he was not gay and the closed-lips peck was more fun than sexual.

But fans of his team at the time, Corinthians, protested outside the club's training ground and online with banners saying, "This is a man's club" and other slogans. He left the club to join Botafogo a few months later.

Brazilian players and officials have been involved in several racism incidents this year.

Peruvian fans shouted monkey chats at Cruzeiro midfielder Tinga in a Copa Libertadores game, and Brazilian supporters abused Santos's Arouca. Bananas were also thrown on a black referee’s car in the south of the country.

Barcelona's Brazil players Dani Alves and Neymar launched a media campaign in April after a Spanish fan threw a banana at the fullback in a recent league game. Alves ate the banana.

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Image: Former Brazil captain Lucio
Photographs: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

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