For all of the obvious significance of the World Cup opening in Soweto, it seems unreal that the topic that has come to dominate after the first few days is about the vuvuzelas. The plastic horns are loud. A lot of people blow them during the matches. You can hear them while watching the match on TV. Somehow, complaining about the vuvuzelas has become fodder for endless uninspired commentary.
The debate seems particularly bizarre considering that the depiction of vuvuzelas as a traditional African practice seem specious, at best. They have only been mass produced for football fans here within the last 10 years. What’s more, so many of the folks blasting the vuvuzelas around town and at the matches are indeed foreigners, showing perhaps that it is not an exclusively African urge to blow a loud horn when given the chance. They’ll take the vuvuzelas with them back home, where they can easily be reproduced and adopted by fans there. Through the international diffusion of the vuvuzela, 2010 may well alter the future sound of soccer around the world.
In person, the loud blare of the vuvuzelas sound less like the swarming bees heard through the TV–they are often energizing, sometimes maddening. But the drone of criticism–erroneous doubts about SA’s readiness to host the World Cup, unfounded worries about extreme crime, and now complaints about something so trivial as vuvuzelas–is much more annoying.
Hua Hsu, writing in The Atlantic magazine, perfectly sums up our feelings towards the vuvuzela and the “commentary” surrounding them.
Photo from Dundas Football Club’s Flickr page.