Triumph of the Vuvuzelas

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

090617_spo_vuvuzela_dpaA bit of attention now, if you please, to the FIFA Confederations Cup, the tournament of national teams currently going on in South Africa. Of course, a rather bigger tournament, namely the World Cup itself, is scheduled to take place a year from now in that same country, in those very same stadiums as are being used now. As such, then, this Confederations Cup tournament is useful to the world governing football organization, FIFA, as a “trial run” for that much more important 2010 event; among the problems that have cropped up so far is that of the half-empty stadiums, suggesting either a lack of enthusiasm for football among South Africans (highly unlikely) or else inappropriate ticket-pricing.

And then there are the vuvuzelas. Perhaps, you may ask, that’s the nickname of the team and/or the supporters of one participating nation? No, those are the cheap plastic trumpet-like things that many fans are using to set up an ear-splitting racket to accompany the game they are watching live – devices which “remind one of the wind instruments heralds used at tournaments in the Middle Ages,” according to an article on this vuvuzela problem in the Frankfurther Rundschau.

Yes, when blown they apparently emit a dreadfully loud noise, which the FR article describes as “deafening” and an “elephant sound.” They have already prompted some public complaints among players and even from Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, FIFA president, who admitted to the press “They do make a lot of noise. FIFA is quite concerned about the noise, that also can constantly be heard in the TV [broadcasts].” On the other hand, the fundamental fact remains that FIFA explicitly approved the vuvuzelas for this Confederations Cup, so the players and everyone else will just have to endure them (perhaps with the aid of earplugs?) throughout. But for next year? Despite the ringing in his ears, Blatter seems not inclined to change the policy for 2010, either: “When you go to Africa,” he observed, “it’s simply loud. I have always said: football is drumming, rhythm, dancing.”

And whether elephantine or not, that sound is music to the ears of German businessmen Frank Urbas and Gerd Kehrberg. They’re still back in Düsseldorf, but they gained the license to manufacture and sell these vuvuzelas to European fans headed for the World Cup next summer.

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