Worse than a Chainsaw

R.W. Johnson · Ban the Vuvuzela

It should have long been obvious but is now beyond doubt: the South African vuvuzela needs to be banned. Stupidly, in the run-up to the Cup the local authorities and media celebrated it as an authentically patriotic piece of equipment although doctors long ago testified that to have one blown next to you throughout a football game would leave you with permanent hearing damage. The noise is considerably louder than a chainsaw and not much more melodious and it is seriously bad for the game as well as the spectators. A stadium full of such horns guarantees that the players can't hear the ref's whistle or their team-mates' words and that broadcasters are drowned out. The only hope lies in the fact that the stadiums aren't full – several thousand seats were going begging at the England-USA match at the anyway small Rustenburg stadium and the Nelson Mandela stadium in Port Elizabeth hasn't yet been more than two-thirds full.

The games so far have mainly been the sort which have earned a bad name for previous World Cups: negative, tentative and boring encounters as teams play mainly not to lose and, if they should gain a 1-0 lead, are content to sit on it. Only the South Koreans and the Germans have played as if the object was to score as many goals as you can. True, negative football is more typical of the group stages – sometimes three goal-less draws will get you through your group – but any team worth its salt should be hoping to top its group so as to earn an easier draw to help it through to the quarter finals.

Undoubtedly the biggest disappointment to date has been the England-USA game, not just for England fans but for Africa's legions of Premiership TV watchers. Green's famous fumble reminded me irresistibly of the similar goof by Peter Bonetti which allowed England to lose to Germany in Mexico in 1970. Such mistakes at this level are not forgotten. Bonetti was a fine goalkeeper but is now remembered chiefly for that one disastrous error. The England team as a whole doesn't seem to have the confidence or personality to go very far. The winning team of 1966 had such characters as Alan Ball, Ian Callaghan and Roger Hunt who played their hearts out quite unselfishly, letting others do most of the scoring. But that team had a core of Northern grit – the three above plus Jack and Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson. Those seven played in almost every game. This year's team is very different. True, it has three vital Scousers – Rooney, Gerrard and Carragher – but the bulk of the squad comes from the South, reflecting the perhaps inevitable rise of London clubs in the age of giant cheque books. It is not exactly confidence-inspiring that England rely on Heskey and Crouch, both explicitly rejected by Liverpool.

South Africans, though, are still wildly enthusiastic about the whole event and the national team has picked up a great deal more support, having survived its first game undefeated. But both Algeria and Nigeria have been beaten, so Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast will probably gather increased support here now. I just hope that South Africa won't object if Fifa does the obvious thing and bans the vuvuzela.


  • 14 June 2010 at 3:17pm
    Chris Larkin says:
    I'm afraid i have to agree with the vuvzela situation. It was a novelty at first and gave the tournament a distinct sense of African-ness that was very welcome. Unfortunately watching 90 minutes of football with a constant hum in the background (some might say foreground) does become rather tiresome very quickly. For once i find myself agreeing with Fifa and think that they have to be banned or at the very least controlled in some way. As for the games themselves Germany are the only team that have seemed to play without fear so far, an ominous sign for everyone else. The opening round of matches however are generally something of a disappointment because of the sheer weight of expectation and pressure on players to perform. I am sure the quality will improve (at least until the knock out phase begins). As for England i thought we looked incredibly laboured and afraid on Saturday and a point actually seems like a decent result in hindsight. We will qualify from the group i am sure. Lets just hope we score enough goals to top the group on goal difference ahead of the US, otherwise another day of Germany induced heartbreak beckons i fear.

  • 14 June 2010 at 4:17pm
    loxhore says:
    The sound reminds me somehow of the Hans Zimmer music for The Dark Knight.

  • 15 June 2010 at 9:50am
    Christian Perfect says:
    I spoke to a friend yesterday who insisted that not only were the vuvuzelas not annoying but that she had owned one for several years and they were played in "every football match everywhere". I've suspected for a while that she's just a figment of my imagination and inhabits an entirely different universe, and that statement confirms it, I think.

  • 15 June 2010 at 11:09am
    Imperialist says:
    The decision to ban vuvuzelas is 'obvious' only in the manner that the Daily Mail is the voice of common sense.

    The strongest argument against them is that they have replaced chanting and singing. That is a pity. And I guess there is the risk of permanent hearing loss. But the atmosphere is amazing, especially when used to punctuate lulls in action. Ghana's goal against Serbia was preceded by twenty minutes of tedium, but that was erased by the eruption of sonic jubilation that accompanied Gyan's penalty.

    That is a justification for keeping them but it is not the primary argument, which is simply this: we want them and we won't give them up.

    As the local Times points out, we've prostituted ourselves to meet every FIFA requirement; banning the vuvuzela would be a step too far.

  • 15 June 2010 at 9:25pm
    Martin says:
    I'm looking forward to future world cups held in Switzerland, Scotland and Norway where we can all enjoy the national population sharing their cultural instrument of choice with us, whether it be alp horn, bagpipe or the scream.

    • 15 June 2010 at 9:59pm
      Imperialist says: @ Martin

    • 17 June 2010 at 1:02pm
      Martin says: @ Imperialist

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