Archive for 2010/06/13

For football aficionados across the globe, the wait is over – South Africa 2010, the FIFA World Cup, has finally begun. But this year, it seems that anyone watching, or indeed playing, the ‘beautiful game’ will also have to get used to the ‘beautiful noise’. World Cup matches are accompanied by the deafening sound of tens of thousands of vuvuzelas like giant mutant mosquitoes buzzing constantly for hours at a time.

A vuvuzela is a brightly-coloured plastic trumpet, usually about a metre long, which is commonly blown by fans at football matches in South Africa. Playing the vuvuzela requires a practiced combination of lip and lung action to produce an extremely loud, monotonous sound, a bit like a foghorn or a swarm of locusts. Available in a variety of colours relating to different teams, the vuvuzela has become a trademark of South African football supporters, whose frenzied blowing reaches an ear-piercing level whenever their side gets close to the goal area. Unsurprisingly, however, the popularity of the vuvuzela has not been uncontroversial, critics claiming that the loud, haphazard noise it makes causes distraction to both players and coaches. Such concerns led FIFA to consider banning the use of the vuvuzela in 2010 World Cup matches, an action it was later dissuaded from taking by the South African Football Association, which argued that vuvuzelas were an integral part of African football culture and essential for an ‘authentic’ South African football experience.” Thanks Macmillan Dictionary!

Why did FIFA not ban vuvuzelas? President Sepp Blatter said, “It is African culture, we are in Africa and we have to allow them to practice their culture as much as they want to. In South Africa, the vuvuzela is the main instrument of self expression, it is just that overseas countries do not use it.”

Let’s examine that claim…
Firstly, it is not the main instrument of self expression in South Africa. Secondly, well-known Kaizer Chiefs FC fan Freddie “Saddam” Maake is said to have invented the vuvuzela by adapting an aluminium version as early as 1965 from a bicycle horn after removing the black rubber to blow with his mouth. He later found it to be too short and joined a pipe to make it longer. However, it only became popular during the early 1990s at South African PSL matches. Hardly an item with roots in African tradition or history. In 2001, South Africa-based company Masincedane Sport began to mass-produce a plastic version. Yes, only in 2001! It is certainly NOT like the tradtional kudu horn intruments which are rooted in African history and this argument has consistently been disputed by locals. It is a modern “instrument” that supporters blow frantically in an attempt to “kill off” their opponents.

The origin of the name vuvuzela is also disputed. It may have originated from Zulu for “making a vuvu noise,” directly translated “vuvu-ing” because of the “vuvu” sound it makes, or from township slang related to the word for “shower.” To shower your opponents with sound. Even by its very intention it is designed to irritate and be used against the opposition.

Players have complained, coaches have complained, broadcast personnel have complained, and fans have complained. Is that not enough of a consensus? Many locals have complained to the media that, “We can’t sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas. People start playing them from 6am.

This morning the BBC reported that the South African organising chief Danny Jordaan is considering a ban of the vuvuzela from inside stadiums after a spate of complaints about the noise being generated. Jordaan noted that “if there are grounds to do so, yes [they will be gotten rid of]” and that “if any land on the pitch in anger we will take action.” Even France’s captain Patrice Evra blamed the horns for the team’s poor performance against Uruguay. It has to be difficult to communicate properly on the field. However, a savvy reporter should have reminded Mr Evra that no one is going to have sympathy after Thierry Henry’s infamous handball cheated Ireland out of a potential World Cup place or they could have just said, “Karma bitch!”

Whatever your personal opinion on vuvuzela’s let me finish with this. The argument that it is a traditional or cultural South African item is very thin indeed. The biggest point against the vuvuzela is that it drowns out the atmosphere-generating singing in the stands which actually is an important part of the cultural identity of the game. That’s right, the cultural identity of the sport itself, surely this is more important to an international tournament celebrating Football. Maybe it’s time for South African fans to learn some chants of their own and not just steal Mexico’s “Ole ole ole!” and then blow into a plastic horn designed to irritate people.

The real question is, why didn’t FIFA limit its use to only South African matches if it is so important to Bafana Bafana supporters? Let the other nations sing and support their teams properly without the boring monotonous buzz. Let’s start by not playing them during national anthems purely out of respect and take it from there.