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Vuvuzela takes on the World

Mark Namanya/Twenty Ten

Associated features on vuvuzelas: Le vuvuzela (French translation), Vuvuzela Madness (Photo gallery), Vuvuzela Day (Photo feature), Vuvuzelas with a difference (Photo feature about seaweed vuvuzelas), Vuvuzela origins (Text feature) and Vuvuzela Orchestra (Audio feature)

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Other nationalities embrace the vuvuzela.

Until late May, an American football fan, Bob Freeman, had never blown a vuvuzela. His initial feeling towards the plastic trumpet was quite negative, but he is now one of many who have been won over by the unmelodic World Cup instrument.

“It is an African thing, I told myself,” he admits. “I actually hated the vuvuzela when Alonso (Xabi) complained about it during the Confederations Cup last year.”

Freeman was one of several American supporters showing his support with the vuvuzela when the US took on Slovenia at Ellis Park during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. So accomplished was his vuvzela playing, that he was even showing Slovenian fans how it’s done during the match. Freeman has passed on his technique to more than twenty people.

“Initially the whole experience of blowing the vuvuzela sounded strange. There was no rhythm and balance to the whole process in matches,” he says. “But today, I enjoy it. I like the wild atmosphere it creates at matches. It’s like everyone has gone crazy – that’s what the World Cup should be ideally.”

Prior to the World Cup, the common consensus was that the much-maligned vuvuzela would only be an issue when hosts South Africa were playing. It was not anticipated that the plastic trumpet would form the backdrop to every World Cup game.

In Rustenburg, the vuvuzela was louder than ever when England were playing USA, with both sets of supporters nearly filling the Royal Bafokeng stadium. At Soccer City, two Spanish fans hit incredible decibel levels while watching Holland-Denmark, and they weren’t alone. The sound could be heard from every part of the stadium, with some sections working hard to create a more rhythmical pattern to their playing.

While the vuvuzela has been accepted as an integral part of South African soccer support, its growth in other parts of Africa has been slow. Nigerian fans, for instance, play drums, sing and dance when cheering for their football teams. Ivorians prefer to paint themselves in their national colours.

However, vuvuzela culture may now transcend the African game. It is debatable how much the trumpet helped Ghana see off Serbia, but the 38,000 strong pro-Black Stars crowd made the most of blowing the vuvuzela to rally on the team. In countries like Uganda, the vuvuzela is growing by the day and is a common feature at matches involving the national team, The Cranes.

It is a measure of how the vuvuzela has already made a mark on the World Cup that sections of fans from soccer-mad countries like England, Germany, Mexico and Brazil have been spotted blowing it emphatically.

“I will try to blow it in an MLS (Major League Soccer) match,” says Freeman.

If or when the vuvuzela ever creeps into far-flung places like the US, the idea to ban it is sure to encounter greater resistance than before.

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