When Brazil plays, it’s time to walk pooch

When Brazil plays, it’s time to walk pooch

SAO PAULO - While millions of Brazilians were watching their World Cup team on television, Rene Rivera was walking his golden retriever along a swan lake at a Sao Paulo park.

Believe it or not, it is possible to find people in this football-mad nation who would rather walk their dog than see Neymar and company, even when Brazil is playing a key game against Mexico.

For the silent minority, game time is the best time to go out for a stroll, jog or ride bikes, given that the usually congested roads of the mega-city are eerily empty when the "Selecao" is playing.

"We don't like the World Cup. There are better things to do," Rivera said, wearing workout clothes as he walked Sammy with his wife during Tuesday's game.

But he said the sentiment is not a popular one.

"At our gym for instance, if you say you won't watch a game, it's like you're from another planet, abnormal. People say, 'What? You're not cheering for Brazil? What? You're not Brazilian,'" he said.

Rivera, the 41-year-old owner of a software company, is a big fan of the local Corinthians football club, but like many Brazilians he is unhappy about the money spent on hosting the tournament.

Brazil was hit by massive protests during last year's Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal.

While the movement has subsided, many Brazilians still fume that the money would be better spent on hospitals and schools.

"This particular World Cup is political, it's an event to win votes and to be re-elected," Rivera said, referring to President Dilma Rousseff's bid for a new term in October elections.

"The quicker the World Cup ends, that Brazil is eliminated and it's over, the better the country will be. The people need other things than football," he said.

For now, however, the World Cup serves his traffic needs. Ten minutes before the Brazil-Mexico game was to end, he planned to drive home through blissfully empty streets.

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