By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- There are 32 countries competing in the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Brazilian soil, from June 12 through July 13, but only two of them, Brazil and Argentina, trigger off as much fervour and passion among Haitian fans in a Caribbean country where European football is the dominant sport.
Every neighbourhood in the capital Port-au-Prince and throughout the country is decorated with Brazilian and Argentine flags by fans who are ready to put on hold any activities -- including work or even an appointment at the doctor's clinic -- to watch their team play.
Haitian soccer fans express their passion as if they were citizens of the countries of their favourite sides and wear their colours, as they watch the different games of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, through television screens on public squares, in open places in their neighborhoods, in restaurants, at home, at neighbours' or in makeshift pay-to-watch home theaters.
"I am Brazilian, but my brother is Argentine," Maxime Merisier, told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN), on Saturday.
"I am so happy about my team (Brazil) which had a great start by beating Croatia 3-1 on Thursday," said Merisier, a young 20-year-old Haitian student.
Scores of fans of Brazil's Seleçao took to the streets Thursday evening to celebrate Brazil's victory against Croatia and partied all night.
Most Haitian soccer fans support Brazil, but its immediate follower, in Haitian hearts, is the Argentine side led by Lionel Messi, one of the top two soccer players of the world, along with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, who holds the FIFA's best soccer player of the year for the past season.
"I am Argentine and I believe Argentina is going to win the World Cup in Brazil, with Lionel Messi who remains in my opinion the best player of the world," Jose Mombrun, a 26-year-old Haitian vehicle mechanic, told HCNN.
Members in the same family sometimes support rival teams and often engage in long and permanent discussions about the achievements or shortcomings of their favourite sides. Groups of friends and new acquaintances are usually seen in street corners, arguing passionately about their favourite soccer stars and teams.
When Brazil is playing, the busy streets of the capital Port-au-Prince usually become almost empty, work in public administration and private enterprise suffers because many workers and functionaries will be busy watching the game.
Sometimes, even lawmakers are blamed for not showing up to pass legislation, because they won't miss an important game being played by Brazil.
Haitian government leaders are reputed to have a particular interest in popular sports events such as the FIFA World Cup, which temporarily removes immense political and social pressure because the great majority of the population will be busy watching the games.
This kind of calculation comes from all political sides. For instance, opposition parties, which are trying to overthrow the current administration led by President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, said publically that they had to mobilize the population to oust government leaders before the beginning of the FIFA World Cup.
"I know Martelly think he can bank on the World Cup to enjoy a break from street protests which are calling for his departure, because he knows people won't demonstrate during the World Cup," said opposition Senator Moise Jean-Charles.
"We have to mobilize to kick Martelly out of the presidential palace before the beginning of the World Cup," he said several weeks before the inauguration of the 20th edition of the competition.
In fact, Jean-Charles and other opposition groups have organized a number of consecutive street demonstrations which have not allowed them to achieve their political goal. It is clear now that Haitians from all political sides, pro- or anti-government, are now busy watching the World Cup.
France, Germany, Italy, and Spain are also among the favourites of some Haitian fans. A growing number of Haitians now also express support for African teams such as Cameroun lead by Samuel Eto'o and Ivory Coast with Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba.
The first and only time Haiti participated in a FIFA World Cup was in 1974, in Munich, Germany, and were knocked out in the first round of the tournament.