Home > Football > The Vuvuzela: Like Marmite

The Vuvuzela: Like Marmite

Since the World Cup kicked off last Friday (11th June), only two things have elicited more discussion than the football itself: Adidas’s new Jabulani football and the seemingly ubiquitous vuvuzela.

The old Marmite adverts used to end with the slogan “You either love it or you hate it,” and the vuvuzela seems to have a similar ability to polarise opinion. Some argue that it is part of South African football culture and so brings local colour and atmosphere to proceedings. Mick McCarthy, commentating for the BBC said “How can they (ban them) ? This is a great atmosphere. Others are of a very different opinion, describing them as “annoying” and even, somewhat melodramatically, “satanic.” ITV’s Peter Drury likened the sound to the world’s “loudest, angriest traffic jam.”

The authorities know that the metre-long plastic horn is commonplace in South African football stadia and if they did not know beforehand, they should have following last summer’s Confederations Cup, when Spain’s Xabi Alonso called for them to be banned. World Cup organising chief Danny Jordaan has now gone on record saying that if there is a case for banning them, they will. One must ask, if there is such a case, why was it not considered before?

In fact, a more pertinent question may be, “what is the case for banning them?” For many people it is simply the annoyance factor. They cannot stand the constant drone emitted by the vuvuzela and claim that it reduces their viewing pleasure. For players, like Xabi Alonso, it is that they hamper players’ attempts to communicate with each other. More importantly however, there are health-related arguments. The sound level produced by the instrument has been measured at a whopping 127 decibels and they have been linked to noise-induced hearing loss. By way of comparison, a chainsaw produces a sound of around 100 decibels. If you are stood in the middle of a group of people blowing relentlessly on a vuvuzela, it cannot be good for the ears, particularly without ear plugs.

South African fan with a vuvuzela

There is some dispute of the origin of the vuvuzela. Famous Kaizer Chiefs fan Freddie Maake claims to have invented the instrument in the 1960s and that it was originally made out of aluminium. The story goes that he was often refused entry to stadia as security felt it could be used as a weapon and so he looked to find a company that would manufacture them out of plastic. He succeeded and they have become a firm fixture at football matches in South Africa, particularly since the early 1990s. In short, they are now part of South African football culture regardless of how they came in to being. There is also the small matter of money. The vuvuzela trade is expected to be worth around £2 million during the World Cup. Banning them were put a stop to this lucrative trade.

So do you love it or hate it? Do they bring unique, local colour to the tournament in much the same way as ticker tape did in Argentina 32 years ago? Or, are they nothing more than a highly annoying health risk? You decide.

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Categories: Football
  1. Chris
    June 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Voted yes as I personally would ban em, and thought i’d add a bit of controversy. They don’t add anything to the atmosphere, only drown it as you can’t hear the crowd.
    I also don’t count a money making fad since the 90’s as a countries cultural heritage.
    And finally, I cannot bring myself to agree with anything Mick McCarthy says. Why did ITV ever think it would be a good idea to employ him??

    But at the same time, they probably shouldn’t ban them. It’s in South Africa so we should put up with South Africa’s annoyances. If they were ever gonna ban em it should have been pre-tournament, banning now would generate a bad vibe.

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