Vuvuzela Power! with Noise Levels at World Cup Games Reaching 160 Decibels, the Use of the Horn-Shaped Instrument Ensures That the 2010 World Cup Will Be the Loudest Ever. Barney Cullum Reports on the Controversial Phenomenon, Which Has Sharply Divided Opinions

By Cullum, Barney | New African, July 2010 | Go to article overview

Vuvuzela Power! with Noise Levels at World Cup Games Reaching 160 Decibels, the Use of the Horn-Shaped Instrument Ensures That the 2010 World Cup Will Be the Loudest Ever. Barney Cullum Reports on the Controversial Phenomenon, Which Has Sharply Divided Opinions


Cullum, Barney, New African


If the 2010 World Cup is remembered for one thing, it will certainly be for the emergence of the vuvuzela on the global stage. Forget Shakira's Waka Waka and R Kelly's Sign Of A Victory, the real anthem of this tournament came from the blasts of the instrument now synonymous with South African fans.

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The shape of the instrument is said to descend from the kudu horn, known as ixilongo or mhalamhala in the Xhosa and Venda languages respectively, usually blown to summon people for village meetings. While the general belief that the word "vuvuzela" is derived from the Zulu word for "making noise", others claim it derives from township slang related to the word "shower", as it overwhelms people with music.

At Johannesburg's Soccer City, the World Cup's largest venue, with a capacity for 94,000 people, the shower felt more like a thunderstorm. When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the opening goal of the tournament, in South Africa's 1-1 draw against Mexico, the vuvuzela roar threatened to bring the stadium down to its foundations. The noise, which has been described as akin to that of an angry swarm of bees, creates a unique atmosphere, one that has never been experienced in the 80-year history of the World Cup.

Blowers of the instrument create the sound by relaxing their cheeks, which allow the lips to vibrate around the end of the plastic instrument, producing a drone-like sound.

While teams from other parts of the world continue to be irritated by the din it causes, Bafana Bafana players, as expected, lapped it up. Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune pleaded for fans to become even louder in the rest of the tournament, following their opening game against Mexico. It was anything but quiet during the tournament's opening encounter but fans heeded Khune's calls and the noise level was ratcheted up in subsequent games.

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But South African supporters had willing accomplices from the global fan fraternity. From Polokwane to Cape Town, Rustenburg to Durban, every stadium reverberated to the sound. And the waves of noise were not confined to the stadia either, as you could hear it long after the games had finished, throughout the country's city centres and villages.

France captain Patrice Evra was woken by fans blowing their trumpets at 6am one morning and other players complained that they couldn't sleep because the partying continued in the streets around their hotels well into the early hours of the morning. And the less than sterling performance of South Africa at the tournament has done little to silence the blowers. "In South Africa, we celebrate in defeat or victory," a fan said outside Pretoria's Loftus Verfeld stadium after their humbling 3-0 defeat to Uruguay. But the world's top players are not as carefree as the fans.

As they line up to complain about the racket, which flows unimpeded from the stands to the pitch, the debate over whether vuvuzelas were having a detrimental effect on the quality of football being played threatened to overshadow the start of the tournament.

Argentina star Lionel Messi said the noise during their opening group match against Nigeria made communication impossible. "It's like being deaf," he said. Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi's predecessor as the FIFA World Player of the Year, was even more outspoken. "It is difficult for anyone on the pitch to concentrate. Hardly anyone likes them, but the people who do like them are those who like to blow the instruments and make a racket."

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But there are players who have a different view. "During the game they didn't disturb me," claimed Holland's Wesley Sneijder, a UEFA Champions League winner with Inter Milan last season.

"Maybe it bothers other players more than me," he said after picking up the Man of the Match award for his display against Denmark. "We have to deal with it."

In the United Kingdom, the BBC received over 500 complaints in the first week of the World Cup from television viewers, who complained that the noise interrupted their enjoyment of the spectacle. …

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Vuvuzela Power! with Noise Levels at World Cup Games Reaching 160 Decibels, the Use of the Horn-Shaped Instrument Ensures That the 2010 World Cup Will Be the Loudest Ever. Barney Cullum Reports on the Controversial Phenomenon, Which Has Sharply Divided Opinions
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