Vuvuzela: The Sound of South Africa’s World Cup
Early on Saturday morning, ESPN2 was broadcasting the live feed of the final tune up for the Yanks as they took on the Socceroos of Australia. The US men would ultimately come out the winners, 3-1, on the back of two goals from Edson Buddle; a positive result for sure, but there's not much that can gauge from a game that's played at well less than full speed. By way of that, it's the type of warm-up that's markedly forgettable.
...if it wasn't for that damn buzzing sound.
The barren practice pitch is easy to look past, as was the the slower play and the bubble-wrap type approach to protecting key players on each squad. But if you were half-awake during the early morning contest, the constant humming sound in the background may be the only thing that really caught your attention. If you listen past the commentators, you can pick up the sound here:
It's worth noting that it was a small crowd on hand (US Soccer posted that the expected attendance was about 7,000), but that hum still drives right through. The delightful sound is brought to you by way of the vuvuzela, a plastic horn about three feet long that South African soccer fans blow into to create a low-pitched "buzz" in chorus. It's probably the most tangible spectator tradition in for South African supporters, and that noise will be ringing through your ears for the next month, so get ready to hear it a lot over the next four weeks of the World Cup.
There will be thousands of these around the stadiums of South Africa these weeks; when a full stadium gets going (like in this clip from last year's Confederations Cup and the Yanks upset over Spain), it's almost impossible to even hear your own thoughts. It's enough to make you want to abandon that surround sound system you just installed. To think all of this can come from a piece of plastic and a careful use of wind power, it's remarkable.
The sound was not widely appreciated during the Confederations Cup, and many (notably, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic calling the sound "excruciating") panned the horns as an annoyance and a pain for media, players and fans at home. Still, even in the light of some calls to try and get rid of them for this year's World Cup, FIFA responded right after the Confederations Cup last summer to note that they would not ban the trumpets:
"That would mean one would have to take away the cow bells from Swiss fans and ban English fans from singing," Hans Klaus, director of communications at world soccer's governing body, told reporters on Friday.
"We approach this in a relaxed manner. I am convinced the vuvuzelas will be a hit at the World Cup. It will be a World Cup with African sound."
After a barrage of complaints about the instrument, a regular fixture at domestic matches in South Africa, FIFA pledged to discuss whether the vuvuzela had a place at the World Cup.
For the next four weeks, we all get the experience to share in one of the greatest international competitions of anything. This is Africa's first chance hosting an event of this scale, and that sound will be a constant reminder that this is a noteworthy accomplishment for the continent. On July 11, a World Cup champion will be crowned. The other part we'll all remember will be how the entire globe was treated to more African culture than we ever have before; the vuvuzela sound will be the tangible echo for years that we'll never forget.
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