South African soccer or football as the sport is known to most of the world would not be the same without the vuvuzela. As the country hosts the 2010 Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, otologists, otolaryngologists, and otorhinolaryngologists may see a rise in business in the next month. According to articles like the one written by David Smith for www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog, the vuvuzela sound is so piercing even the eardrums of tournament’s television viewers will be affected. When blown, the instrument is said to sound like a herd of trumpeting elephants, a hive of irritated bees or a foghorn.
Research conducted by universities in Florida and Pretoria, South Africa show evidence of ear damage from prolonged exposure to the vuvuzela sound. The subjects absorbed up to 144.2 decibels in a two-hour period. National standards recommend hearing protection for workers exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels (though they determine those numbers from an eight-hour workday). Some teams and media types have called for a ban on the deafening instrument at the games, but South Africans feel it would de-emphasize their culture, at least their soccer culture.
So what exactly is a vuvuzela? And who invented it? Also called a stadium horn, it is about three feet long, made from plastic, and comes in a variety of colors. Soccer fans in Israel, Mexico, and Brazil also share a fondness for the shrieking instrument. As for its invention, it depends on who you ask. Some believe it is a derivative of the kudu horn which was used to call African villagers to meetings. Some say it originated from the fishing horns like those blown in fishing villages on the Cape. Others give it religious connotations. They say it was constructed out of tin for the Shembe Church -a church that fuses South African spiritual traditions with Christianity- and the idea was stolen by a fan of Johannesburg’s Kaiser Chiefs football club after a visit. Yet others claim that this same fan originally fashioned the vuvuzela from a bicycle horn.
According to www.thevuvuzelacall.com, the trumpet or horn gained South African popularity in the 1990s and in 2001, Masincedane Sport of South Africa began mass-producing it. When the country learned that it was chosen to host the World Cup, 20,000 vuvuzelas were sold in one day. Earplugs anyone?
David Smith, “2010 World Cup: A brief history of the vuvuzela.” www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog
“History of the Vuvuzela.” www.thevuvuzelacall.com