Every four years, the world gathers to celebrate our common interest in athletics with a tournament devoted to the global game of football – soccer to us Yanks. It is a big deal for full-time soccer fans like me… but one of the great things about the World Cup is that it becomes a big deal for the occasional soccer fan, or the, shall we say, potential soccer fan.
Today’s draw between Slovenia and the US, for example, should by all rights stoke national passion even among people who thought they disliked soccer. “I thought all the games ended 0 – 0” will give way to cries of “wait – you mean you can score a goal and then the ref can take it away from you?!”
But that conversation probably won’t happen. Because all anyone wants to talk about during this World Cup in South Africa is the sound of the vuvuzela. This cheap plastic tube-trumpet, played by tens of thousands of African fans, produces the relentless din that has accompanied all the games so far. International broadcasters are scurrying to figure out how to doctor the sound of their broadcast feeds to weaken the sound of these instruments. The French players whined that they tied Uruguay because they couldn’t hear each other over the noise. And casual fans have been surprised that the games have been played to the accompaniment of a huge unearthly buzzing sound.
Personally, I love it. I’ve watched occasional soccer matches from Africa, usually from the Africa Cup of Nations or from the long process of World Cup qualifying matches, and while I didn’t know what they were called, these horns have always been a part of African soccer. It’s one of the things that distinguishes them from European matches. Now I have to say, one of the things I love about European soccer is hearing a stadium full of fans in full voice, chanting their team songs.
But this World Cup isn’t in Europe. The sound of the vuvuzela is a reminder of the historic nature of this year’s Cup – the first ever in Africa. Plus we’ve all learned a new word.
What do you think of the sound of the vuvuzela? Is it exciting or driving you to distraction? Leave a comment.