- By Andrew SwiftAndrew Swift is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
The first African World Cup was always going to be a unique event, and the first four days of the tournament have been full of the good, the bad, and the Green. Particularly noteworthy (and relished by this observer) was France’s dismal performance in a 0-0 draw against Uruguay last Friday.
Because it’s the French national team, headed by universally-hated Raymond Domenech, Le Blues were not lacking of excuses. Captain Patrice Evra blamed his team’s lack of performance on communication problems, and more specifically, the deafening noise of thousands of vuvuzelas:
We can’t sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas. People start playing them from 6 a.m. We can’t hear one another out on the pitch because of them.
Somehow, Uruguay wasn’t similarly fazed because they apparently possess superhuman hearing. (Credit to the South Americans, they executed their gameplan perfectly and nearly came away with all three points had Diego Forlan’s strike in the 73rd minute been on frame.)
Evra’s complaint was one of a string from participants about the ubuqiutous South African trumpet/kazoo/noisemaker of death. Even the best player in the world, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, expressed disapproval of the instrument, saying "It’s impossible to communicate, it’s like being deaf."
I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?
Indeed, it would be stupid to ban the quintessentially South African element of the competition because of player complaints. If FIFA had wanted a dull tournament, they’d have mandated every team play in the Italian, anti-football style. Vuvuzelas don’t provide either team with an advantage, and add distinctive flair — or, better put, a distinctive buzz. (Perhaps worringly for spectators, South African shops are now reporting running dry of "vuvu-stoppers:" plugs to protect fans’ ears from the noisemakers.)
Thankfully, not all have highlighted the vuvuzelas as the biggest problem of the tournament so far.
*Tuesday update: ESPN has just announced that they’ve added filters to their broadcast to lower the vuvuzela noise. We’ll see whether viewers appreciate the change, or whether they feel they’ve lost some of the World Cup buzz. (It does seem like the sound of the vuvuzelas has been slightly dulled.)