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Thursday, June 17, 2010
People's horn is beyond FIFA's grip

Jayaditya Gupta

I dislike the vuvuzela. I haven't been to a South Africa game yet but the noise at other games has been loud enough, with fans of other countries adopting the instrument as their own. I can only imagine what it's like when Bafana Bafana play. And it's everywhere - walking down an empty and quiet street you can be sure to have your thoughts rudely interrupted by a loud 'parp' or three. My sympathies lie with the players and coaches who have to communicate on the field. But I cannot countenance a ban on the vuvuzela, or any official intervention to regulate its use. It may be in your face, it may be disruptive, it may be ersatz - as my fellow writer Firdose Moonda pointed out on this site, it is not as ubiquitous in regular South African football as it has become in this World Cup. Yet it appears to be the public's weapon of choice and in this I would have to say, hand over my ears, that the people must have their way. My reasoning is this: In a tournament where everything is so closely regulated by Officialdom, where advertising and PR screams out at you from every possible inch of space, the vuvuzela is probably the one thing that is the people's own. The food they eat is regulated, so too the water, soft drinks and beer they drink. One security official in Cape Town told me that the most heart-wrenching sight on the first day was to see hundreds of kids have to dump their burgers, crisps and drinks at the entrance - many of the packets unopened, meant to be eaten inside the ground - because they were the wrong brand. In Port Elizabeth there is concern over the fate of similar uneaten food that has been piling up at the entrances. The vuvuzela's popularity may have been artificially inflated, but I haven't seen any commercial hand behind it. Sure it's been adopted by some of the companies who've begun handing them out free but to blow or not to blow is still the individual's choice. I've seen them being blown at stadiums over the past week and I haven't seen it choreographed; it comes out as a spontaneous expression. You cannot tell a kid (or even an adult who's had several pints of the house beer) when to blow a vuvuzela and when not; it will happen when it happens. It may be mindless, as Firdose has argued, but so is a lot of football chanting - and, let's face it, the vuvuzela is not going to emit anything racist or homophobic or similarly offensive. It distracts players, is the argument; perhaps, but they have to be able to deal with it, probably as they deal with the cold. My own feeling - wishful thinking you say - is that it will fade away, reduced to the irrelevance of the Mexican wave, the last real innovation by fans. There are more serious things for FIFA to consider at its flagship event - the suitability of the Jabulani, for instance.


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