No chants, no nuance equals no atmosphere
The constant drone of cheap and tuneless plastic horns is
killing the atmosphere at the World Cup.
Where are the loud choruses of “Oooohhsss” 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 hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm 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.
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 of all the others that did not but which 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 who long 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
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 both the
eyes and the 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.
A sudden crowd silence can also tell a story – perhaps of the
heartbreak of a late, defeat-inflicting goal or of the collective
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.
In Rustenburg 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 just insulting. But at least they are inventive,
The same cannot be said of vuvuzelas. They are simply mindless.
Their pitch doesn’t change, just the intensity. Blow hard. Blow
soft. The only range is from horrifically loud to just annoyingly
so. Because of that, we absolutely could not hear the rich African
voices of Ghana fans who sang lustily Sunday at the Loftus Versfeld
in Pretoria, vibrantly clothed in their national colors of green
and red. What a shame.
Please, South Africa, make the trumpets stop. Give us a song,
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The
Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org.