Vuvuzelas Cause World Cup Buzz

7 years ago

It's been a busy first week of the FIFA World Cup. Host nation South Africa's team Bafana celebrated scoring the first goal of the month-long competition in what would end up a 1-1 tie against Mexico. The United States and England also tied 1-1 in a first matchup that ignited serious (if somewhat belated) post-colonial competition.

And I'm guessing you've heard about the vuvuzelas.

This long-standing South African sports tradition isreportedly louder than a lawnmower or a chainsaw -- and it's quickly taking over as the big buzz of the World Cup. If you have watched any of the games broadcast from Soccer City in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, you have heard it for sure.

A Portugal fan blows the vuvuzela ahead of the 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match between Ivory Coast and Portugal at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

I know I have. I'm a soccer newbie who set out to watch the World Cup so I could learn a thing or two, and the international excitement about this tournament was contagious. About half an hour into the first game, I looked around, wondering what that noise was. A swarm of bees? My brain? Are the cicadas back? What year is this?

Oh please, dear God make it stop.


The commentators -- and my Twitter brain trust, can't lie -- pointed out that the noise came from horns called vuvuzelas, a South African tradition whose incessant droning is hard to miss, even thousands of miles away, thanks to the power of television.

And on Twitter and in articles and in seemingly every minute of television Cup coverage, people continue to complain -- vuvuzela chatter that is quickly competing with the horns themselves in virtual volume.

They are too loud.

A South African fan blows the vuvuzela trumpet before the 2010 World Cup opening match between Mexico and South Africa at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 11, 2010.     REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

They are distracting to the players. The French Captain Patrice Evra says he can't sleep. Lionel Messi of Argentia says "It's impossible to communicate. It's like being deaf."

They drown out the celebratory songs of other fans and country contingents.

Votes on (oh yes) this morning are just over 82,000 for canning the horns to just over 9,000 for keeping them.

Others call shenanigans on the vuvuzela hate, however, and say it's only right to leave the host country's traditions alone, thanks. And it is true that although no one quite knows where they originated, the horns are an important part of South African soccer and township culture. Sales started going up in 2004, as soon as the country was chosen to host this year's World Cup. And complaints or no, vuvuzela sales from one company alone -- Masincedane Sport -- have topped 1.5 million horns since October in Africa and Europe. Masincedane is selling a quieter horn now, but with that many on the street and in the stadium it's questionable what kind of difference it'll make.

The people in charge are toeing a very careful line so far. South African football chief Danny Jordaan says so far that the vuvuzelas will not be banned, and has tried to restrict their use during anthems and announcements.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter tweeted yesterday:

I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound...I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?

I don't think so, but I guess it depends on whether I can acquire earplugs or not. I'm still hoping someone can hook me up with one of these horns, anyway. I won't blow it in anyone's ear, but I'd just like to say I own a vuvuzela.

What do you think? Ban the vuvuzela or leave the tradition alone?

Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites. Her  photos are on Flickr.

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