I’ve been asked by plenty of people, including my parents and my friends, “What is that sound during the World Cup games?” That would be the vuvuzela, and unless you’ve kept up with soccer rather closely or watched the 2009 Confederations Cup, then it’s probably a new sound to you.
This is a World Cup of firsts in many respects. It’s the first time the World Cup is on African soil. It’s the first time many Americans have been more than minimally interested in the World Cup. And finally, for many, it’s their first experience with the vuvuzela.
Brief History of the Vuvuzela
Some think the vuvuzela is an instrument derived from the kudu horn, and it was originally used to summon African villagers to meetings. Since then, its role has vastly changed. Since the late 1990’s, the vuvuzela has become much more popular. For those who don’t know what the vuvuzela looks like, you can see a sample of the picture at the top of the article. The best way I can personally describe the vuvuzela is a plastic horn-type instrument that is about three feet long. You can look into purchasing one at http://www.boogieblast.co.za/index.htm. (By the way, I love the slogan the company has: “You only hate them if you don’t have one!”
There was a controversy over the vuvuzela recently, and many fans, coaches, and players wanted the instrument banned, citing it as “distracting” and “disrupting”. I can see how a stadium sounding like a bees’ nest would be slightly annoying, but as far as disrupting and distracting I’m not so sure. I think you can make a better argument for chants and songs at English Premier League soccer matches being distracting. I don’t think that’s annoying by any stretch of the imagination, I think that just adds to the overall experience and culture of the game. Nevertheless, the final decision was to not ban the vuvuzelas, which I’m sure is obvious if you’ve watched a World Cup game yet.
Why is the vuvuzela so popular?
I can’t really say for certain why the vuvuzela is so popular. One logical reason I’ve come up with is the fact that the vuvuzela is so popular is because it is seen as a staple of South African football; a “national symbol”, if you will. Tourists and fans traveling abroad to South Africa are probably intrigued by the vuvuzela for a few different reasons. For starters, the vuvuzela is a reasonably cheap souvenir from a foreign country. Secondly, I can imagine many fans are interested in trying the vuvuzela, but don’t really want to borrow someone else’s to try out, if you know what I’m saying. “Hey you mind if I try out that whistle?” You’re probably never going to hear that from a stranger, and the vuvuzela is the same concept. Finally, I think the vuvuzela may be popular for the exact reason the aforementioned website said. “You only hate them if you don’t have one!”
Personal experience with the vuvuzela…
Last summer, I had the wonder experience of attending a Chelsea vs. Club America game at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. I can’t even describe how awesome it was for many reasons. For both of us, it was our soccer game, we got to see two international teams that are very prolific, it was one of the first major events held in “The Palace in Dallas”, and it was a great father-son outing. Even though only a few had the vuvuzelas, (vendors outside the stadium were selling them) they sound was certainly prominent. I can’t even imagine what a stadium with 50,000 people blowing on the vuvuzela would sound like.
Sounding off – How do you feel about the vuvuzelas?
According to www.southafrica.info, the vuvuzela is “South Africa football’s beautiful noise”. I know some will disagree with that which leaves me with my final question. How do you feel about the vuvuzela? Does it enrich your World Cup experience? Or does the vuvuzela drive you away from watching the games?