Remember those wretched instruments that forced us to turn down the volume in our TV sets last summer? Get ready for more incessant hootering and noise in a few weeks….
Much debate surrounded the blast of the vuvuzelas at the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year. Many South Africans hate them, and media and fans have complained that they are annoying, distracting, and sound horrible. The opposing argument is that they are an integral part of South African football culture, and I couldn’t agree more. With the World Cup just around the corner, the vuvuzela is going to be out in force as salesmen set up their stalls outside the grounds to flog the pipes, seeing thousands of travelling fans buy into them.
Within the ground, I completely disagree that they disrupt the playing teams – as a professional footballer playing on this stage, you should by now be accustomed to blocking out the sounds of the crowd, regardless of whether that is singing, whistling, screaming, or the horrid blast of the cursed vuvuzela. It may be disturbing for the fans, but not outstandingly so and certainly not enough to cause any uproar.
On the telly, the noise is horrendous. It sounds like a constant blaring of thousands of untuned car hooters, randomly blowing in no apparent rhythm. In the stands, however, it is not nearly as terrible. At the Spain vs. South Africa group match in Mangaung, Bloemfontein last year, I sat in the stadium to watch the game. A group of lads equipped with vuvuzelas were sitting behind me, and they had mastered their art well enough to actually play tunes with these primitive instruments. The general level was not in any way upsetting or annoying, and I enjoyed the game and the local flavour.
Perhaps then, the major concern for the vuvuzela doubters is not that the things are loud, noisy and annoying, but that those concerned are unable to play them. I for one can’t blow one, and am yet to be convinced that there isn’t a secret sequence of traditional magical steps passed on by a Sangoma that one needs to take before being blessed with the vuvuzela blowing skill. If I, a young, white South African football fan, cannot blow one, then what hope do foreign nationals have?
Let’s take the recent World Cup in Germany. If I think about Germany, I think of toughness, precision, and beer. Naturally, when I think of watching football in Germany, I don’t want them to take away the beer because some people happen to not like it!
If you’ve ever watched a local soccer match in the South African Premier Soccer League, the presence of the vuvuzela becomes immediately apparent. Almost every attending fan has one, and is skilled in the complex art of blowing on the thing to make its unique sound reverberate around the stadium.
The bottom line is that you simply cannot claim to have experienced South African football without having vuvuzelas around. And isn’t that what having the Confederations Cup and World Cup in South Africa is all about?