AP PHOTOS: Soccer stars decorate Haiti’s minibuses

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In this May 21, 2014 photo, a painting of soccer stars decorate a tap-tap passenger bus at a garage where buses are built in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. From left to right are Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Brazil’s Neymar. The brightly painted Haitian minibuses known as tap-taps are getting a bit more colorful in the lead up to the World Cup. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this May 21, 2014 photo, a painting of soccer stars decorate a tap-tap passenger bus at a garage where buses are built in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. From left to right are Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Brazil’s Neymar. The brightly painted Haitian minibuses known as tap-taps are getting a bit more colorful in the lead up to the World Cup. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this May 22, 2014 photo, a painting of Argentina’s soccer player Lionel Messi covers the back of a tap-tap passenger bus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Several artists have spent hours in a Port-au-Prince bus garage, decorating the vehicles with the faces of their favorite soccer players, including Lionel Messi of Football Club Barcelona, who will play for his native Argentina in the tournament. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this May 21, 2014 photo, a painting of Portugal’s soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo decorates a tap-tap passenger bus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The capital’s public busses are getting covered by the faces of soccer stars ahead of the World Cup that starts in June in Brazil. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this May 24, 2014 photo, the mirror of a tap-tap passenger bus reflects a mural of Brazil’s soccer player Neymar painted on the bus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Caribbean country does not have a team playing at the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, but they have their favorite players, like Neymar, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this May 21, 2014 photo, Haitian artist Saintus Dieunor uses a photograph as a guide to paint a mural of Thiago, the son of Argentina’s soccer layer Lionel Messi, on the body of a tap-tap passenger bus at a garage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The brightly painted Haitian minibuses known as tap-taps are getting a bit more colorful in the lead up to the World Cup, and Messi’s image seems to be the most popular. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The brightly painted Haitian minibuses known as tap-taps are getting even more colorful in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Although their national team did not qualify for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, Haitians are fervent soccer fans and often identify with and root for the Brazilian team. So it’s no surprise they are painting the portraits of some of their favorite players on the sides of tap-taps, which are characterized by bright colors and lavish designs, and usually include religious slogans and the portraits of famous people.

Several Haitian artists have spent hours in a Port-au-Prince bus garage decorating the vehicles with the faces of well-known players such as Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona, who will play for his native Argentina in the World Cup, and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who will play for Portugal.

Saintus Dieunor, a 24-year-old artist, used a photograph of Messi’s young son Thiago to paint the likeness of the little boy on the side of one tap-tap.

The likeness of FC Barcelona’s Neymar, a Brazilian forward, is another popular subject. Brazilians are pinning their hopes on Neymar for the success of their national team at the tournament, just as Argentines are counting on his Barcelona teammate Messi to lead their national team to victory.

Also featured among the portraits is Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The top scorer for Paris Saint-Germain has expressed profound disappointment he won’t be able to attend the World Cup after Sweden lost to Portugal 3-2 in a qualifying match late last year. Ronaldo scored all three of Portugal’s goals to Ibrahimovic’s two.

But Messi seems to be the most popular. His visage smiles out from the back of one of the private taxi shares, providing a splash of bright color on a gray Port-au-Prince street when the bus stops at the top of the hill to let a couple of young schoolgirls get on.

Associated Press

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