Vuvuzela: Call It This Cup’s Atmospherics

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Well, that was fast. Even before the fourth day of World Cup play had commenced, mobs were forming around the globe aiming to get rid of what’s thus far been this tournament’s most noticeable and unique feature: the blaring vuvuzela.

In a world where everything and its contrary have pages on Facebook, it goes without saying that the vuvuzela is already well represented on the ubiquitous social network (two pro; three anti). Online activity focusing on the noisy plastic trumpets is proliferating elsewhere. In addition to the web vendors flogging vuvuelas (or derivative products like t-shirts), a variety of petitions have sprung up demanding the ear-splitting tooters be banned from stadiums from here out. One anti-vuvu organizer didn’t even wait till World Cup play had begun to take preventive action against the horns: A full year ago, a gent calling himself Tobias R.—describing himself as a “pissed off German dude with a bad post-Confederations Cup headache”–launched a petition drive calling for FIFA to banish vuvuzelas from World Cup. To no avail, quite obviously.

Now Tobias R. and his proliferating co-detractors world-wide—who complain the unceasing noise of the horns during play is about as painful to experience as an Airbus A380 taking off in a giant hive of seriously hacked off bees—are getting some back-up from heavyweight actors on ground. Stations beaming the images and sounds of matches back to increasingly annoyed television and radio audiences are pressing South African Cup organizers to consider a vuvuzela ban. Media reports have quoted those same organization officials replying by they’ll put a plug in vuvuzelas only if they’ve been “used to attack and injure other people or thrown into the field to disrupt matches”. For now, honking fans are instead being praised by organizers has respecting rules about keeping quiet during announcements and anthems, and blasting away during play when that’s allowed. Given that stand, the anti-vuvuzela forces of electronic media are turning on each other, with radio stations carrying games issuing reminders to fans back home that noise filters radio uses for sporting events leave their broadcasts of Cup matches with toned-down vuvuzela content compared to TV.

News vuvuzelas aren’t going to be interdicted will come as a disappointment to players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Yoann Gourcuff—all three of whom complained that the racket the horns make had prevented players from communicating during matches. (Gourcuff went so far as to blame France’s lame performance against Uruguay Friday on the inability of lost-looking French players to give each other directions.) Other Cup stars are taking a different view of the honkers, however. French defender and team captain Patrice Evra rightly points out “the trumpets are a tradition in the country”, and were as integral part of the package that earned South Africa the World Cup as stadium singing would be in an international competition being granted to England.

And at least one player even complained South Africa wasn’t giving the world its vuvuzela best. “We could hardly hear the fans who were quiet at stages during the game,” said South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. “We want more support and louder vuvuzelas when we play our next match.” Given the attention the horns are getting already, he probably won’t have to wait that long for a noisy reaction from perma-puckered fans in stadiums.