Fortaleza, Brazil • The historic wave of protests that has swept across Brazil in recent days has gained some important allies the players of the Brazilian national football team.
Brazil is hosting the Confederations Cup, a tournament of continental champions that serves as a warm-up for next year's World Cup. But the Brazilian players' focus has turned to the demonstrations that call for improvements in basic services such as public transportation, schools and hospitals.
The Brazilian players were reluctant to speak about the demonstrations at first, but it became difficult to avoid after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to show their displeasure with politicians, authorities and local government.
"After seeing the people on the streets claiming for improvements, it makes me feel like joining them," Brazil striker Hulk said. "They are doing the right thing, what they are saying makes sense and we have to hear them. Brazil needs to improve, we all know that."
Nearly 240,000 people marched in 10 Brazilian cities on Monday. The protests are turning into the most significant demonstrations in Brazil since the end of the country's 1964-85 military dictatorship, when crowds rallied to demand the return of democracy. It's reminiscent of the early 1990s nationwide movement to call for the impeachment of then-president Fernando Collor de Melo following corruption allegations and unpopular economic measures.
"The people have the right to express their opinions and to protest when they are not happy with what is happening in their country. That's the only way to call attention to what is wrong," said Brazil defender David Luiz, who plays for Chelsea in England. "I don't live in Brazil, but I love my country. The Brazilians love their country and that's why these protests are happening."