World Cup's Vuvuzela Is The Sound Heard Round The World
Vuvuzela (pronouced voo-voo-ZAY-lah) is the horn of plenty. Its name in Zulu roughly translates to "making a lot of noise" — and it sure does. This year's World Cup in South Africa is distinguished by a sound not found in too many other destinations. At best, it's been compared to the sound of a herd of elephants - at worst perhaps, "the traffic jam from hell."
Nothing represents the sheer exuberance of South African soccer fans better than the "vuvuzela," the trombone-length plastic horn that the world was introduced to at the opening ceremonies, June 11.
If you haven't heard them yet, then you have not tuned in to watch any of the games over the course of the last few days. Vuvuzelas are sold everywhere in South Africa these days. They have moved from corner shops in poor townships to upscale shopping malls in plush suburbs.
For those that can't travel to Capetown to get up front a nd personal with these horns, you can purchase the vuvuzela in various colors online from Amazon. However if you think your getting a deal, the same horn in Capetown is selling for $3 versus Amazon's $6.75.
When US soccer players from the 32 teams checked into their hotel rooms at the Irene County Lodge near Pretoria, the VIP gift was their very own vuvuzela. I'm thinking the World Cup organizers were preparing the players for what many consider a distracting sound on the field.
The horns have stimulated some controversy because they virtually do not stop at any time throughout the course of play. And while they have prompted complaints from the fans, Sepp Blatter, the president of soccer's governing body, declined to ban them for the World Cup, saying they are part of the sport's culture in South Africa.
Others are more enthusiastic about the horn's cultural heritage, and actually attach the vuvuzela to a hard hat decorated in team colors, creating a contraption known as the 'makarapa vuvuzela.'
The history of the horns has been disputed over the years. Enoch Mthembu claims that the Shembe Church, a South African Christian Church, first created the vuvuzela but called it "ibhomu," which was made from metal. But Freddy "Saddam" Maake says he got the idea from a metal bicycle horn. He went into partnership with the Boogie Blast Co., which began mass-producing plastic horns.
For those fans in the stadium or at home that would rather hear silence that the droning sound of horns, earplugs might be the answer. In fact, the South African Earplug Company is doing a brisk business. It has designed an earplug in the shape of a vuvuzela. Spokesman Andrew Chin said the company had 70,000 provisional orders a few weeks before the tournament.
Oddly enough when the South African team reached the 55th minute of their match-up with Mexico, the horns went dead 'silent' as South African's Siphiwe Tshabalala struck a left-footed rocket past Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez to score his goal. While the game ended in a 1-1 draw, you could imagine what kind of a decibel level would have been reached had South Africa actually won the game!
You think the horns have anything to do will all these empty seats? (See the vuvusela.)
Update: June 15 - A new Facebook page called FIFA – Ban the Annoying Vuvuzela Horn from the South African World Cup already has over 224,000 fans and is getting more by the second.