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Football, noise and the vuvuzela

Posted on 16 June 2010 | 8:06am

And to think that a couple of weeks ago, if you heard people talking about  ‘vuvuzela’, you’d think they were pissed and reminiscing about their holiday in South America.

Now, thanks to the universal appeal of football, just as all English people are suddenly experts on goalkeeping, so everyone has a view on the vuvuzela.

But it has quickly become one of those issues where it is hard to have a nuanced position. You’re meant to love it or hate it. There can be no in between.

So when I tweeted that the annoyance at the vuvuzela was becoming more annoying than the annoyance caused by the vuvuzela, I was castigated by the anti-vuvuzelans as a pro-vuvuzelan crusader who therefore deserved to have them played outside my bedroom window as I tried to sleep.

Yet it is possible both to be irritated by the constant hornets’ nest hum, and yet still speak up against the waves of whingeing and hatred it seems to have inspired.

I am more for singing, shouting and chanting than I am for the vuvuzela. But I cannot stand the small-mindedness of people who think that because something is different to what they’re used to, we ought to get out the banning orders.

South Africa is not Britain. The blowing of the vuvuzela is an act of joyous celebration. Yes, when hundreds are going at once it can mean that even the cheering which greets a goal can be drowned out. But so what?

I speak as someone with very low noise irritation threshhold. Indeed I may have blogged not long ago about my desire to throttle slow-sweet-unwrappers and Coke-slurpers and pick’n’mix-chompers in cinemas. That is because they interfere with the concentration required to enjoy a good film.

I have also at times embarrassed my family by leaning over to complete strangers and asking them if they would mind not clicking their pen top incessantly on and off.

But noise at football is part of what football is. Go to a Scottish international and expect to hear bagpipes. Go to England and expect to hear the band playing The Great Escape. Go to South Africa and hear the vuvuzela.

It is not going to be banned, and nor should it be.

And to those who said how would you like it if everyone at Burnley had one? They won’t. A few might for a game or two, but it is not our culture. It is theirs and we should embrace it for the duration of a tournament on their soil.

And if you don’t like it, turn the sound down. Ah, but then it’s not the same is it? Proves my point. Football without crowd noise is like a book without words.

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  • Robert

    South Africa is not Britain. The blowing of the vuvuzela is an act of joyous celebration.
    1. Vuvuzelas are hated all over the world, no only Britain
    2. Vuvuzela? it’s a simple plastic horn. I’m from Latvia, ice hockey is big here and our supporters were blowing mad the freakin’ horns just like South Africans. We were universally hated among ice hockey international fan community until the international federation banned them during the ice hockey games. We had World Championships in ice hockey here in Latvia and I went borderline mad because of the damn horns as I am living near Arena. So now what? Nobody respects our dear Eastern European tradition? Please write a blog to support us! let us blow our horns with pride!

  • John Martin

    Please read Charliechops. It will annoy you: that’s good isn’t it?

  • pressure

    R5live asked one ordinary south african “why don’t you just sing you have so many fantastic songs and we can’t hear the songs?’ “the problem is’ he said ‘we never know what song to sing because South Africa has 15 languages and football was the place where we left all our differences behind, so i suppose we just all started blowing the vuvuzela together’… I too would like to hear the singing but I will never forget the noise of the vuvuzela when Bafana Bafana came out for the opening game. it was amazing

  • Sarah

    If only the non-South African fans would leave them be it would be ok. If it was only every fourth or fifth game no-one would care, it’s just irritating because it’s every minute of every game. The worst aspect of them for me is that they drown out all the other crowd noises – remember when you could judge how nasty a tackle was by the gasp of the crowd when it happened? Still, it’s only for a couple of weeks I guess (altho I woudl be happy enough to see them banned from the stadium for non-SA games)

  • Callum

    Agree wholeheartedly. However, I do wish Burnley would get rid of their pre-match PA announcer. Easily the most annoying man in British football. I’ve only been there once, about five years ago, and I remember him. That’s how annoying he is.

  • Jack

    Well said! Fed up with all the hating that’s going on. It’s just a vent for people who have found the games so far uninspired and truly tedious.

  • Tim

    “Football without crowd noise is like a book without words.”

    Speaking as a long time Arsenal fan, I have to say I’m used to this… However, the vuvuzela is not crowd noise, it is just noise. It’s as bad as white noise and an assault on the senses. For me crowd noise means singing, chanting, cries of YOU **** when the ref makes an error. It’s not BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ for 90 minutes.

    Surprised there’s no mention of last night’s Newsnight hustings today, but maybe not that surprised after watching the five candidates last night. What an uninspiring bunch they are. When the coalition needs fighting, what have we got? Harriet Harman stumbling over her sentences in the caretaker role and five nobodies taking forever to get a leader elected. Not that any of them are of sufficient calibre to dent Common Dave in my view, and seeing as he is the weakest and least charismatic PM we have had since John Major, that says everything about the calibre of the candidates for leader. I don’t count Diane Abbott as a leadership contender by the way.

    I’m not impressed by any of them and it’s a sad reflection of the state of the party, which has had all its character and spirit drained by New Labour and the Oxbridge Mafia that have taken the party over.

    Career politicians are the worst politicians and that’s all we have, it seems.

    Watching David Miliband is like watching a third rate Tony Blair (and I never really liked Blair anyway) with the others pale shadows of Miliband.

  • Colin

    500+ complaints to the BBC, there are too many people with far too much time on there hands. Fortunately these whingers will be off watching Wimbledon shortly and leave the rest of us to enjoy the football, vuvuzelas included.

  • Mark Wright

    They absolutely should not be banned.

    Part of the joy of watching the World Cup is experiencing the different crowds. When watching the different countries play one gets a representation (albeit stereotypical) of that country via their supporters. There must surely be a certain disconnect between the team and their fans because of this perpetual drone.

    I’m not into football other than during the World Cup but I have heard time and time again players at the end of a match say how the sound of the audience getting behind the team made a real difference.

    In all honesty I was expecting a more colourful aural contribution at this South African World Cup. This monotonous drone has led to every single game without exception having the same homogenised feel to it which is a shame.

    But the drone of the vuvuzela may have hidden benefits. Just perhaps this could be an advantage to the ‘lesser’ teams from which there have been some interesting results.

    Overall, I suspect that if they were suddenly taken away we would feel that something was missing. And I defy anybody, ANYBODY, if given a vuvzela NOT to put it to lips within 5 seconds and blow it until their lungs burst!


  • Andy L

    I’m not the banning type but I do wish that the authorities would call time on this incessant plastic drone that has erduced me to watching the World Cup without any commentary for some games. It’s that bad.

    Look, if it’s a South African tradition then fine, let’s hear the vuvuzela whine proudly through all of South Africa’s games. It might even make them special. But this infernal drone that never changes pitch, rarely changes intensity, is present for all 90 minutes of every single game, and it’s spoiling the tournament.

    Yesterday I watched the end of the New Zealand Slovakia match. NZ scored a deserved equaliser with almost the last kick of the game. Did we hear a crescendo of incredulous cheering to amrk the drama? Nope, not a bit of it. The drone just continued – no louder or softer than before. No human sounds were audible.

    It’s a sort of cultural bullying. None of the other 31 nations here, in this celebration of football seem to have any chance of expressing theit own cultural individuality.

    It’s just so blinking pointless and so artless.

  • Nigel Wright

    I agree. I don’t like them, but we shouldn’t ban everything we don’t like.

    Hope you stayed in the Grassington overnight as it was a beautiful morning when I went to Skipton earlier today.