Vuvuzela here to stay

2004-05-23 08:25

Johannesburg - Former South African president Nelson Mandela ordered hundreds to be taken to Zurich to support South Africa's 2010 Football World Cup bid.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel blew one. So did newly elected provincial premier Ebrahim Rasool.

And when Fifa president Sepp Blatter pulled the country's name from the envelope last weekend, the sound of tens of thousands of "vuvuzelas", the elongated, trumpet-like noisemaker of choice for millions of soccer fans could be heard across the country.

Made from plastic and emitting a braying sound similar to that of an elephant, the vuvuzela over the last week has etched itself as a symbol of South African football.

It has become so popular since its introduction at stadiums in the late 1990s, that a major South African brewer took steps to register the design as a trademark to protect its inventor, Neil van Schalkwyk.

"The vuvuzela has really become a symbol of South African soccer," said Putco Mafani, communications manager for the hugely popular Kaizer Chiefs football club.

"It's loud, proud and shows the passion that South African football fans have for the game," Mafani, who is widely credited for popularising the instrument, told AFP. Nobody is quite sure where the name "vuvuzela" comes from.

Mafani said he believed the name originated from township slang and meant "to shower someboby with music" or because it resembled a shower head.

Other theories suggest that the word vuvuzela could roughly be translated from Zulu simply as "making noise".

What is certain though is that its origins can be traced back to ancient times in Africa.

"In ancient times, in African cultures people used to blow on a kudu (buck) horn to summon villagers to a gathering," Mafani said.

In many regards, going to a soccer game in urban South Africa could be equated to attending a village meeting.

"We have actively encouraged our Kaizer Chiefs fans to come to matches dressed in (yellow) soccer gear, carrying their vuvuzelas."

There are more practical reasons why Chiefs fans, especially during the last 15 minutes of a game, were encouraged to blow their vuvuzela's as loud as they could.

"There is an old African saying that goes like this: 'The baboon is killed by a lot of noise'. We make as much noise as we can to confuse our opponents on the field," said Mafani.

"Remember this game is not like golf or tennis, where you are actively encouraged to keep quiet. This is a loud game."

Mfani said big plans for the instrument were in the pipeline.

"We are in negotiations at the momement to get the vuvuzela named as the official instrument for 2010," he told AFP.

Its manufacturers hoped that some 500 000 would be sold in South Africa by the time the World Cup comes around. Currently a vuvuzela retails for around R20.