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As scores of fans poured into the Arena Corinthians for the FIFA World Cup opening game between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, another World Cup had already kicked off.

But instead of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the stars were trash collectors, metro workers and builders.

The People’s Cup is a protest action that began on May 3, when a group led by the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) occupied a large plot of abandoned land just four kilometers from São Paulo’s new stadium.

The organization claims more than 4,000 families are now living in ramshackle plastic tents because they were forced to leave their former homes by spiraling rent prices around the Arena.

In the backyard at a bar just a couple of blocks from the occupation, residents of the tent city seemed to forget their problems in a euphoric daze as Brazil celebrated victory.

People cried, hugged, kissed the fuzzy television, doused each other in water and offered thanks to heavenly forces. Somehow, it felt like months of boiling tension had instantly been swept away by a wave of manic relief.

Those who had passionately spoken against FIFA were overpowered by emotion generated by the same World Cup that has deprived them of a home.

UPDATE – June 16
A photo from this story was featured in the New York Times – As Brazil Cheers, Protesters Struggle to Be Heard.