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

neighbors.

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

not alone.

Attending or watching a match should be a feast for the eyes and

ears. Those two senses work better together, each augmenting the

other.

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

in football.

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

so.

Please, South Africa, make them stop. Give us a song,

instead.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The

Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org.