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The 2014 FIFA World Cup

Brazil president abused as party begins

PITBULL-J-LOSAO PAULO, June 12- Thousands of people shouted an obscene message to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the opening match of the World Cup on Thursday.

Minutes before kick-off, Rousseff, who is up for re-election in October, was greeted by fans with cries of “Ei, Dilma, vai tomar no culo!” — which roughly translates as “Hey Dilma, go fuck yourself!”

Rousseff is battling to reverse widespread discontent over Brazil’s faltering economy and the record $11 billion it spent on the World Cup, which critics say should have been used for education, health, housing and transport.

Brazil has been hit by a wave of protests ahead of the World Cup, including Thursday in Sao Paulo, when police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to stop a group of radicals from marching on the stadium where the hosts took on Croatia.

Rousseff was one of 12 heads of state and government who flew in to Sao Paulo for the match. They were shown on the stadium’s giant screens before kick-off.

Brazil launched the World Cup on Thursday trying to put on a carnival atmosphere after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in Sao Paulo opposed to the tournament.

But the five-time world champions shocked their fans by giving away an own goal 11 minutes into their first game against Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in front of 61,600 fans including 12 heads of state.

Defender Marcelo was almost in tears after he steered the ball into his own net from a Croatian cross. But Brazilian hero striker Neymar equalised in the 29th minute.

Brazilian police put up a ring of steel around the stadium to keep protesters away from the gala debut of the four-week spectacle that Brazil has spent more than 11 billion dollars to prepare for.

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But anarchist demonstrators in black shirts and masks lit bonfires of rubbish a few kilometers (miles) from the arena after armoured police sought to quell protests in the hours before the opener.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by months of protests, reflecting widespread public anger over the money spent.

But Sao Paulo and other cities largely went quiet as the game started. Yellow and green flags hung from many buildings. Gutemberg Santos, 42, said his t-shirts and flags had sold like hot cakes. “It has been a good day, everyone is happy,” he said.

But protesters who last year brought chaos to the Confederations Cup rehearsal tournament had vowed to march on the Sao Paulo stadium.

But riot police responded forcefully, chasing protesters up a main avenue and firing tear gas in the middle of oncoming traffic, forcing cars decorated with the Brazilian flag to weave their way through the chaos.

A cannister fired by police hit and injured a CNN journalist and an AFP correspondent saw one woman in tears clutching her arm.

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