JOHANNESBURG -- FIFA has a message for all those vuvuzela haters: Buzz off.
Despite criticism from World Cup TV viewers around the globe that the swarm-of-bees sound from the plastic horns is stinging their ears, the organization left no doubt Monday that the uniquely African soundtrack is here to stay.
"I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound," Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's governing body, said in a Twitter post. "I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country."
He went on to ask, "Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?"
FIFA and Blatter have strongly backed the use of vuvuzelas since they were introduced to the wider football world at the Confederations Cup test event in South Africa exactly a year ago.
With a much broader audience for the World Cup, the vuvuzelas have drawn strong reaction from Boston to Bhutan. "What is the buzzing noise at soccer games?" was one of the week's top-searched questions online, according to Yahoo.
"I am a casual football [soccer] fan, have been anticipating the World Cup since a recent trip to Europe. However, I can't stand that noise that drones on throughout the broadcast, so I will not be watching," American Michael DiSalvo wrote in an e-mail to Associated Press columnist John Leicester.
ESPN has received some complaints, but "not an overwhelming amount," network spokesman Bill Hofheimer said. Al-Jazeera, South Korean broadcaster SBS, TF1 in France and Brazil's BandSports also have heard from viewers unhappy about the racket.
"In France, there's big, big noise about it. Viewers are completely mad by it," said Philippe Kaufmann, head of production for sport for TF1. "It's very difficult to hear this permanent noise."
Some fans say they've resorted to watching matches with their televisions muted. On Monday, tips on how to filter out the vuvuzelas sound on individual TVs circulated on the web.
TF1 changed its microphones after the opening match between Mexico and host South Africa, replacing them with mics that filter sound. Other broadcasters are altering the sound mix to minimize the crowd noise -- just as they do for other noisy events, including NASCAR races or basketball games.
"This event is no different than any other event -- except the sound is unique to South Africa," said Jed Drake, the executive producer of ESPN's World Cup coverage.
And organizing committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo said television viewers aren't the same as fans in the seats.
"I wouldn't dwell too much on what outsiders think about vuvuzelas. I would dwell ... on what the feelings of the spectators are," he said.
FIFA does have one request for fans: No horns during national anthems. At Monday night's game between Italy and Paraguay in Cape Town, announcers asked the crowd to hold off until the anthems for both sides finished.
Once the game kicks off, though, the noise can be deafening, with some games louder than others. That can take a toll on players.
"In many parts of the game it can bother you a bit because you can't communicate anything to a teammate who's more than 10 meters away from you," said Spain striker David Villa, who first experienced the vuvuzelas at the Confederations Cup.
However, Villa also said the noise "brings a nice ambiance and some emotion."
Besides, the horns are ingrained in South Africa's history, Mkhondo said.
"You find that they emanate from the horn which was used by our forefathers to call meetings," he said. "As our guests, please embrace our culture, please embrace the way we celebrate.
"You either love them or you hate them. We in South Africa love them."
And, to be fair, these colorful little instruments are not universally reviled.
"From a home-viewing perspective, I personally don't mind," said Rekha Shankar, a student at New York University. "We're watching for them to play. If they're not affected, we shouldn't be either."
Mkhondo mentioned that visitors were snapping up vuvzelas and "stuffing them into their suitcase" for the trip home.
England defender Jamie Carragher is one of them.
"My kids have been on the phone," he said, "and they want two."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press