The Curse of the Vuvuzelas

The Curse of the Vuvuzelas

05 Jul 2010

vuvuzela-thumb Dr William Murray
Email: w.murray@latrobe.edu.au

For those of us watching the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year it was clear that a new menace was on the soccer scene.  A monotonous noise like a million swarming bees almost drowned out what FIFA President Sepp Blatter was trying to say in his opening remarks. While this was most welcome in that very little Blatter has to say is worth listening to, it later made the commentators difficult to hear, killed the spectator culture and forced most of us to watch the games on mute.

Blatter’s response when he was inundated with pleas to have what became known as vuvuzelas banned, was to claim that they were an African tradition and he did not wish to interfere. And so at the same time as displaying his ignorance, Blatter issued a gratuitous insult to African culture.  The vuvuzelas are cheap plastic toys, Chinese imports, although they  may have been invented in Cape Town in 2001. Whatever, they only made their presence felt in recent years and a few years do not a tradition make.

Africa has many cultures and traditions, but all of them are colourful, rhythmic and their singing a joy to the ears.  This, added to the chanting and cheering of spectators from Europe and Latin America promised  a spectator culture at the World Cup 2010 that would be  an experience to remember.  Instead we are left with that moronic buzzing, only occasionally giving way to  spectators trying to give voice to their team rather than just make a noise. The spectators at any football  code provide an enhanced experience,  and despite the intrusions of commercial television,  canned cheering and cardboard crowds will never take the place of the real thing – unless the disease of the vuvuzelas actually spreads to other countries and has to be met with blanket bans on all spectator noises. But it need not come to this; it is a simple matter to ban them, as has been done with other instruments taken into football grounds and deemed to be a menace to public safety.

Certainly no-one is likely to die or be grievously injured or driven to suicide by what amounts to a massive tinnitus attack, and there have been some amusing spoofs on what is a subject generally bereft of humour, (most notably the YouTube version of Hitler and the vuvuzelas) but something has been killed at South Africa’s World Cup: however good the football, however contentious some of the referees’ decisions, whatever the hope and despair that give meaning to the football fan, the lasting memory of the World Cup 2010 is going to be that monotonous droning and the idiotic spectacle of otherwise sane looking adults blowing their heads off in preference to watching the game.  

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