No chants equals no atmosphere at World Cup
The constant drone of cheap and tuneless plastic horns is
killing the atmosphere at the World Cup.
Where are loud choruses of “Oooohhhs” from enthralled crowds
when a shot scorches just wide of the goalpost? And the sharp
communal intake of breath, the shrill “Aaahhhhss,” when a
goalkeeper makes an acrobatic, match-winning save? Or the
humorous/moving/offensive football chants and songs?
Mostly, they’re being drowned out by the unrelenting
water-torture beehive hummmmmmmmmmm of South African vuvuzela
trumpets. Damn them. They are stripping World Cup 2010 of
football’s aural artistry.
Vuvuzela apologists – a few more weeks of this brainless white
noise will perhaps change, or melt, their minds – defend the din as
simply part of the South African experience. Each country to its
own, they say. When in Rome, blah, blah, blah. Get with the par-tee
and blow, man.
Which would be fine if this was purely a South African
competition. Fans could then legitimately hoot away to their
hearts’ content while annoying no one other than their immediate
But this is the World Cup, a celebration of the 32 nations that
qualified and all that did not, but still play and love the game.
Hosting planet football brings responsibilities. At the very least,
South Africa should ensure that the hundreds of millions of
visitors who come in goodwill to its door, both in person and via
the magic of television, do not go home with a migraine. How many
TV viewers, longing for a more nuanced soundtrack to go with the
show, have already concluded that the only way to enjoy this World
Cup is by pressing mute on their remote?
In Tweeting, “No offense to the vuvuzela posse but, man, it’s a
bit much,” seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was
Attending or watching a match should be a feast for the eyes and
ears. Those two senses work better together, each augmenting the
Sounds should ebb and flow like tides with the fortunes on the
field. That adds to the drama. Fans reacting with their voices to
action on the pitch, to events in the stadium and to each other’s
sounds, songs and chants are part of football’s theater. Outside of
South Africa, they are.
A sudden crowd silence can also tell a story – perhaps of the
heartbreak of a late, defeat-inflicting goal or of the shock of
seeing a player horribly injured by a bad tackle. Sometimes, you
should even be able to hear a coach bark orders from the touchline
or players shouting at each other for the ball.
There are stadium sounds other than vuvuzelas at this World Cup
– just not enough of them. They are being bullied into submission
by the trumpets’ never-ending screech.
There were scattered unison chants of “In-ger-land,
In-ger-land,” a few bars of “God Save the Queen” and the
occasional “USA! USA!” when England played the United States on
Saturday night. But vuvuzelas ultimately won the battle of the
bands. They and the result – a disappointing 1-1 tie – silenced
England’s fans, who usually are among the best-drilled noisemakers
They take their singing seriously, with chants that are cheeky,
taunting and often insulting. But at least they are inventive.
The same cannot be said of vuvuzelas. They are simply mindless.
Their pitch doesn’t change, only the intensity. Blow hard. Blow
soft. The range is from horrifically loud to just annoyingly
Please, South Africa, make them stop. Give us a song,
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The
Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org.