RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — It’s just 10 days away. The World Cup’s opening match is coming June 12 in Sao Paulo, and the final days before soccer’s most important tournament have seen a flurry of on- and off-field action.
Anger over the billions being spent by Brazil to host the World Cup continues to fuel protests, although they are far smaller than anti-government demonstrations last June that saw a million people out on a single night.
Indigenous protesters clashed with police in the capital city of Brasilia outside the new stadium that will host Cup matches. They wore traditional dress and some held soccer balls on which they wrote anti-World Cup slogans. Some had bows and arrows, and one officer was wounded in the leg with an arrow as tear gas wafted over the protest.
Still, excitement is building among soccer fans around the globe.
In Bangladesh, poor children played spirited, impromptu matches, no doubt imaging themselves as future soccer stars. In Brazil’s Amazon jungle, members of an indigenous tribe played in a village near the city of Manaus, one of the Cup’s host cities. Also in the Amazon, young barefoot boys played soccer in the ruins of a rubber baron’s villa near the town of Paricatuba.
The San Gabriel Archangel church in Mexico City offered encouragement to the country’s team by displaying a glass case with a statue of the baby Jesus wearing a miniature replica of the squad’s uniform.
Teams taking part in the tournament prepared for their matches, both in workouts and in “friendly” games against other national teams.
Neymar led workouts for Brazil’s squad near a mountain town north of Rio. Other team members like Thiago Silva, Paulinho and Maicon exercised hard on stationary bikes, preparing their legs for the marathon, monthlong tournament.
But friendly matches proved disastrous for some players. Italian midfielder Riccardo Montolivo and Mexico’s Luis Montes, also a midfielder, each broke a leg in their games and will miss the Cup.
Brazilian authorities rushed to put finishing touches on stadiums, airports and other infrastructure for the Cup, much of which simply won’t be finished before an estimated 300,000 foreigners arrive for the tournament.