SAO PAULO: A union leader threatened a general strike in Sao Paulo at the start of the World Cup is there were a recurrence of heavy-handed police response to a metro strike.

Police used tear gas to break up protesters on the second day of the industrial action which paralysed transport in Sao Paulo and sparked FIFA concerns over the launch of the finals on Thursday.

“If the violence continues we will ask for help from steelworkers, bank workers and make a general strike on the eveof the Cup,” ¬†said metro workers’ leader Altino de Melo Prazeres Junior

Nearly half of the metro stations were closed and there was gridlock on the streets of South America’s largest city. ¬†Workers say they have spent te last two months demanding a pay rise of at least 10pc and been ignored.

A third of Sao Paulo’s metro stations were closed on Friday morning, and there were more than 125 miles of traffic jams across the city in the morning rush hour. Members of the FIFA executive committee were caught up in the jams on their way in to the city from the airport.

Police fired tear gas and used batons and shields at a demonstration outside Ana Rosa station in central Sao Paulo.

A military police spokesman said officers intervened after clashes broke out between picketing strikers and commuters trying to enter the station.

Brazil beat Serbia 1-0 on Friday afternoon in a friendly played at a Sao Paulo stadium that will not be used during the World Cup, Morumbi.

FIFA has continued to insist that the World Cup will be a success. President Sepp Blatter, after a meeting with the organising committee, said on Thursday: “I’m an optimist. After the tournament kicks off, I think there will be a better mood.”