Until recently the entire world knew one South African word: apartheid. That was changed quite suddenly by a plastic trumpet that packs a wallop.
Since 11 June people from Argentina to North Korea and from the USA to Denmark and India have become familiar with the word “vuvuzela”. The proudly South African instrument with its monotonous drone has become a symbol of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
And just as apartheid stirred intense feelings so our blaring noisemaker has excited emotions over the past few weeks.
Voices of protest demanding vuvuzelas be banned from matches have fallen on deaf ears. Fifa initially weighed the pros and cons and soon realised this was one host-country tradition with which the soccer control body dare not interfere. The vuvuzela is here to stay, Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced.
Vuvu fever spread to every corner of the world virtually overnight. Manufacturers can’t keep up with demand. One of England’s largest chain stores sold 40 000 vuvuzelas in less than a week. They’re flying off the shelves in Europe. Manufacturers in Australia and the East are falling over themselves to cope with the orders. Amazon reports online sales in the US have increased by 1 000 per cent.
“When someone blows a vuvuzela they can’t help but end up having a smile on their face. And that can’t be a bad thing,” English soccer fan John Hemmington says.
On overseas websites where anti-vuvuzela campaigners once complained about the droning that’s louder than a jet engine and “can deafen you in 15 minutes” tips are now exchanged on how to master the instrument and treat lips aching from blowing.
In England some of the big soccer clubs have reportedly begun planning to adopt the fad and start selling vuvuzelas. “The madness is here to stay and fans want it. If someone is going to sell the things it might as well be us,” a representative of one club says.
The fad has taken off to such a degree that organisers of other sports are scratching their heads about how to stop it. At the dignified Wimbledon tennis championship organisers summarily banned it but South African golf hero Ernie Els says he wouldn’t mind hearing a bit of vuvu support on the greens.
In France trade unions have placed huge orders so they can make first-rate noise during their protest marches.
The vuvuzela industry is currently worth about R50 million, says Neil van Schalkwyk, the man who claims to be the first mass producer of plastic vuvuzelas. His company, Masincedane Sport, began making the plastic horns in 2001.
Read the full article in the YOU of 1 July 2010