World Cup officials deaf to vuvuzela complaints

Angry World Cup viewers, we, at least, hear your vuvuzela


From as far away as the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan,

you have e-mailed in droves to The Associated Press to complain

that you are being driven loopy by the awful din of the trumpets

that are spoiling the World Cup in South Africa.

“Fifteen minutes into the opening game and I already took two

aspirin,” lamented Boaz Gabbai, from West Hills, California.

“Those vuvuzelas are making me nuts!!!” wrote Myriam Seyfarth

from Venezuela.

Do organizers care? They don’t give a hoot. Their bottom line:

the cheap plastic noise-polluters are a South African tradition.

Those who don’t like them can, well, lump it.

“I won’t dwell too much on what outsiders think about

vuvuzelas,” says South Africa organizing committee spokesman Rich

Mkhondo. “I won’t dwell too much on what the feelings of the

spectators are.”

He is backed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who asked: “Would

you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?”

Frankly, if they were as mind-meltingly annoying as this,


While freely acknowledging that organizers have no intention of

doing opinion research to confirm whether this is true, Mkhondo

added: “People love vuvuzelas around the world. Only a minority

are against vuvuzelas.”

Well, AP reader Gillian McKenna in Bordeaux, France, would beg

to disagree.

“PLEASE start a worldwide movement to get the vuvuzela

banned,” McKenna wrote in a response to a column I wrote this

weekend complaining about the trumpets. “It is destroying the

pleasure. I have simply stopped watching or listening.”

In my column, I argued against the horns because their constant

beehive drone mostly drowns out many of the usual sounds from

football crowds – “Ooohs,” “Ahhhs,” songs and chanting – that

enhance the experience of watching games.

Not since I angered curlers by suggesting that their sorry

excuse of a sport doesn’t really deserve a spot at the Winter

Olympics have so many people written back – more than 100 in less

than 24 hours. Opponents of the trumpets outnumbered supporters by

a 3-to-1 ratio. Via Mkhondo, I passed the e-mails to South African

organizers in hopes that they will take heed of the international


“Extremely frustrated England fan” Maureen Ling wrote: “I

& many other fans in the UK are having to mute each game – with

the result that the commentators of the various TV Channels are not

being heard, which seems to me to be a total waste of time &

money for them!! The whole ‘atmosphere’ of World Cup Entertainment

is lost! Are we REALLY expected to put up with this for another two


Well, yes, Maureen, you are.

“The vuvuzelas are here to stay and they will never be

banned,” Mkhondo said. “As our guests, please embrace our

culture, please embrace the way we celebrate.”

British bookmakers William Hill are offering smallish odds of

16-1 that the horns will be banned before the World Cup final July


“It appears to be people who don’t normally attend or watch

football matches live and would rather sit and watch games in

silence who are objecting to the vuvuzela,” said Graham Sharpe, a

William Hill spokesman. “Besides which, the noise helps drown out

some of the commentators, whose own incomprehensible vocal babble

is often far more offensive than any vuvuzela!”

Andy Romain was among the roughly 25 people who objected

strongly, some of them insultingly so, to my anti-vuvuzela


“Your article reads as, ‘can someone please shut these black

people up.’ Which is unfortunate,” he wrote. “For the love of

god, respect the culture, wait your turn, shut up, and enjoy the


“At a football stadium, it’s normal you can barely have a

conversation at any time of a game,” added Jules Bisong from the

Netherlands. “It’s always extra loud; shouting, screaming,

drumming, chanting, music, trumpeting, all mixed together. How has

that never been a hassle, only now when South Africa is hosting the

World Cup? I’m not a South African, but you guys from the media

should stop being bias, be more professional and maintain your

respect, and most of all, give South Africa a break!”

However, gentlemen, it is not just South Africans who are

blowing these horns, but fans of all stripes. And it is not the

color of the people who blow that concerns me – just the fact that

they blow, at all.

Meg Cowper-Lewis, a South African, is on my side.

“This is NOT a South African Cup, it’s not even an African Cup,

it’s a World Cup!” she wrote. “So for democracy’s sake (on which

we pride ourselves here in South Africa), do what the WORLD wants!

It’s disgracing our country and making our visitors fed-up – so

it’s up to FIFA to fix it for the majority!”

Namgay Wangchuk, the fan from Bhutan, wrote: “We stay awake at

midnight to watch it and we get this ‘tuneless and annoying’ noise.

Please make it stop. Please!”

The most frightening thing of all? The vuvuzela virus could,

heaven forbid, spread beyond South Africa. What a terrifying World

Cup legacy that would be.

“The vuvuzela is now an international instrument,” Mkhondo

said. “People buy them and stuff them in their suitcases and take

them home.”

So, quick, down to the barricades, comrades! Stop these trumpets

from coming in!

You have nothing to lose but your hearing.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The

Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)