Anti-Maduro chants ring at Venezuela soccer heroes' welcome
Thousands of soccer fans repeatedly chanted against President Nicolas Maduro's government during a homage in a stadium on Tuesday to Venezuela's youth team who were runners up in a World Cup final.
Some 20,000 people in the Olympic Stadium cheered as each of the players, dressed in the red wine colored "Vinotinto" national strip, was welcomed on stage.
But before the event began and during the homage, much of the crowd shouted a popular anti-government slogan, with the chants surging again several times during the ceremony. "It's going to fall, it's going to fall, this government is going to fall!" the fans sang at the stadium in Caracas.
At one point, the chants became so loud that team coach Rafael Dudamel pleaded with the crowd to quieten down, saying from the stage: "Nobody should steal this moment from us."
Unusually for such an event, Tuesday's homage was not broadcast live on the main state television channel, which instead showed Maduro at an event with army officials. Earlier the team's arrival at the airport was broadcast.
The youth side unexpectedly reached the Under-20 World Cup final in South Korea, the strongest ever performance for a soccer team. Although beaten by England in the final, the players' success has created a rare moment of joint pride amid the bitter political divide and violence.
"Even though they lost, they are our champions. This is the greatest achievement in our football history and we will not forget," said architecture student Roberto Hernandez, 22. "This country needs some happiness and these kids gave us spadefuls of that every time they won a game."