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What is a vuvuzela?


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If you have only watched a minute of The 2010 FIFA World Cup you will have noticed the constant droning sound made by the Vuvuzela. A vuvuzela is a long horn that was originally made from tin but is now made from plastic. A vuvuzela horn is typically less than 1 meter in length. It is played by compressing your lips together like you were playing a trumpet and forcing air out of your pursed lips. The resulting noise is very loud. Cases have been recorded at football stadiums in Africa of noise levels reaching over 127 decibels. If you stand too close to a vuvuzela with such a high decibel output you can permanently damage your ears. There is a further risk of spreading cold and flu viruses through the air expelled air from a vuvuzela.

The vuvuzela is similar to the South American corneta that has long been a favourite with football fans in that continent. Plastic horns were used in Mexican football stadiums as early as the 1970s. It was in Africa in the late 1990s that the present re-incarnation of the football horn known as the vuvuzela was popularized. It is also known in Africa as the lepatata or stadium horn. It is used by fans to show their support for their team. It is believed that the fans that make the loudest noise will brow-beat the opposing fans and aid their team to victory.

Blowing your trumpet

Fan blowing a vuvuzela
Fan blowing a vuvuzela

The People's Game

There was some debate prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup whether to allow vuvuzelas into the stadiums. As you no doubt know those in support of the horn carried the day. The argument went that the vuvuzela is now an intricate part of footballing culture in Africa. It is easy to buy a cheap vuvuzela and fans should not be denied their culture. There is a lot to be said for the cultural argument. Football is the people’s game. This has constantly been at odds with the elitism generated by the phenomenal wealth involved in the sport. No matter how the rich view the game they cannot change the passionate support it commands with the poor and deprived in the barrios, shanty towns, slums and favelas around the world. Violence, jingoism, racism and loud noise are woven into the game it seems. Asking the poor to behave because it upsets their social superiors is somewhat hypocritical when it is the hard earned dollars of the poor that pay the wages of super stars like Lionel Messi. Football represents identity. It represents a way out of poverty. It brings pride to those with little to boast about in terms of social achievement.

So if the people want to make themselves deaf by blowing vuvuzelas then who has the right to stop them? If Christiano Ronaldo doesn’t like it I suggest he becomes a gardener like his father.

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