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The World Cup’s biggest concern is a trumpet

Five years ago, when South Africa won the right to host the 2010 World Cup, many were concerned whether the country had the infrastructure to host the huge tournament. With one year to go, though, most observers agree that the country will be pass that test. Instead, the biggest complaints have centered on an instrument ...

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Five years ago, when South Africa won the right to host the 2010 World Cup, many were concerned whether the country had the infrastructure to host the huge tournament. With one year to go, though, most observers agree that the country will be pass that test. Instead, the biggest complaints have centered on an instrument called the vuvuzela.

Described by one newspaper as “a unique brightly coloured elongated trumpet that makes a sound like a herd of elephants approaching”, the vuvuzela has become the biggest controversy at this summer’s Confederations Cup [a small tournament between continental champions that functions as a World Cup warm-up].

Fans argue that it is an essential way to express their national identity. But players and TV commentators have called for it be banned at the World Cup.

Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso, playing for Spain in the current tournament, said: “They make a terrible noise and it’s not a good idea to have them on sale outside the grounds. Here’s a piece of advice for Fifa [football’s world governing body,] – try to ban them.”

The South African Association of Audiology has warned that vuvuzelas can damage hearing.

But supporters are sticking to their horns. Chris Massah Malawai, 23, watching the national team beat New Zealand, said: “This is our voice. We sing through it. It makes me feel the game.”

It’s hard to say the vuvuzela is melodious; its sound can be best described as a monotone swarm of bees (judge for yourself with this news report). But the biggest problem with the vuvuzela may not be the noise. Rather, whereas most fans in other countries correlate their noise to what’s going on on the pitch, it is typical in South Africa to blow the horn for the entire match. Not surprisingly, the monotone sound becomes far more grating in 45-minute doses.

Still, as FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said:

“I always said that when we go to South Africa, it is Africa. It’s not western Europe. It’s noisy, it’s energy, rhythm, music, dance, drums. This is Africa. We have to adapt a little.”

So next summer, sit back, and get ready to hit the mute button.

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

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