RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Brazil saw on Saturday, Jan 25, 2014, the first in a wave of planned protests against its hosting of the World Cup, after activists from radical activist group Anonymous warned football's fabled event would not take place.
With less than five months before the June 12 kick-off - when the five-time champions and hosts take on Croatia - Brazil is again facing the social rumblings that marred last year's Confederations Cup dress rehearsal.
Anonymous called for protests via its Facebook page under the slogan, "The Cup will not take place," while other activists said "Fifa go home" on Twitter, referring to football's world governing body, which is likely watching the weekend's events with some concern.
Brazilians are avid users of social media, a favoured tool to organise protests.
Many in football-mad Brazil say they are not against the World Cup as such - their country is the most successful nation in the tournament's 84-year history.
But they are angry to see hundreds of millions of dollars spent on preparing 12 host cities for the sports jamboree when poor infrastructure and areas such as health and education require urgent massive investment.
In Sao Paulo, the country's sprawling industrial and financial hub, a rather modest 1,000 people turned out, demonstrating on the key Avenida Paulista.
In the central city of Goiania, about 100 people protested downtown.
Rio de Janeiro - where demonstrations turned violent in July - was due to hold a demonstration on the landmark Copacabana beach.
Anonymous, which has staged a number of highly publicised stunts in different countries, says Saturday's planned protests in 36 cities across Brazil - a nation of 200 million - "will be followed by others". Other cities expecting demonstrations include Salvador, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and the capital Brasilia.
Brazil has, however, been hit in recent weeks by fresh unrest of a different kind, with "rolezinhos" flash mobs composed primarily of young people from slum areas swooping on shopping malls in swanky districts of Rio and Sao Paulo.
Authorities have slapped bans on the practice in a bid to stamp out the craze.
Meanwhile, the civil aviation authority's chief Wellington Moreira Franco complained after an inspection of host cities' airports that contractors were behind on many facility upgrades ahead of the event, particularly Fortaleza airport's expansion.