South Africa: The Vuvuzela World Cup Debate

Perhaps the defining sights to date of the 2010 World Cup have been the sparkling new stadiums or the colorful costumes worn by fans of each of the 32 competing nations. Without a doubt, the defining sound of the tournament has been the droning sound of the vuvuzela, which can be heard by spectators attending the games or by the television viewer. The notable sound has sparked a debate whether the vuvuzela adds or takes away from the World Cup experience.

For local South African football fans, the vuvuzela has been a natural part of the conduct of watching a match, and wonder what is the fuss. However, for international visitors and viewers the sound of the plastic instrument has been a novelty.

Photo of Vuvuzela at Soccer City by alvez and used under a Creative Commons license.

This debate dates back to the 2009 Confederations Cup held in South Africa, which may have been the first exposure to the sound for many global football fans. Some called for the vuvuzela to be banned from the stadium by those who said that it took away from the enjoyment of the game. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, however, gave his full backing to allowing the use of vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup. He said, “we should not try to europeanise an African World Cup.

Now, just days into the tournament, it has become a topic on the internet by those who complain about it, as well as those who defend the instrument, and even by those who criticize those grumbling about the vuvuzela. Even though there are some reports that FIFA may look into restricting the vuvuzela due to television complaints, many feel that it will continue on.

Syrian twitterer Anas Qtiesh compares the sound to that of a swarm of insects and writes, “we need to fumigate the stadium, the bee situation is getting out of hand.” Several Twitter accounts are appearing to encourage more complaints about the vuvuzela: @stopvuvuzela, @vuvuneela, and @vuvunee.

There were others quick to defend the football tradition in South Africa. Michelle Sibanda (@pinkminx36) writes:

The vuvuzela is part of our country's heritage…so NO we wont stop blowing it and you can complain till the cows come home!!!”

The criticism about the buzzing sound of the vuvuzela proved to be quite humorous for some, who turned around to make light of their complaints. Daniel Reeders (@onekind) stated:

Western world discovers Africa, discovers it to be loud, discordant, overwhelming, and retires to twitter to complain #vuvuzela

Finally, Karabo Harry (@kayrabH) puts it all into perspective by offering a suggestion:

If the sound of the #Vuvuzela irritates you get #EarPlugs & complain about beeger things like #Illiteracy & #Poverty.


  • In my opinion everyone who complains about the vuvuzela is just arrogant and ignorant. It seems to be part of the soccer culture in South Africa, so if you do not want to be open-minded to other (soccer) cultures then do not follow the world cup this year!

    • Tom

      I won’t. Worse WC ever.

    • Zak

      @ berlinerstrasse – I am a very proud South African living in Dubai. I hate the fact that one can’t hear the roar of the crowd, the sighs, etc I love my sport and think the vuvuzela is a tough subject? It has it’s place but for 90 minutes i think not. Who are you to suggest that anyone who does not like it, is arrogant or ignorant!? It’s a world cup not the African cup of nations. If Vuvuzela’s were use within reason great! The whole world is complaining about it, So i guess the world is arrogant then huh? The only thing they good for is to be used as a funnel for down downs! Embrace the African culture but respect other people opinions!

  • Ajay

    Its very annoying to listen to the sound like bees all the time.
    Even though I am watching it on television I am not enjoying the matches due to this sound. It should be banned

  • Graham

    This so-called “tradition” has only been around for 15 years or so. It’s a fad, and not part of South African culture at all, so far as I can determine.

    Every match will sound the same as every other. Where’s the diversity of celebration, in what’s supposed to be an international festival of football? Swamped by a million hornets, that’s where.

    • Claire

      The vuvuzela gives the SOUTH AFRICAN world cup a SOUTH AFRICAN feel. If you had any idea of what you were talking about Graham, you would realise that is it part of the soccer culture there – it seems to me, however, that you really are not as informed about the way things are done there as perhaps you should be. In case you didn’t realise… 15 years ago was quite a significant time for that country and there are many ‘new’ traditions that stem from that time. What is the point in having the cup in Africa if you are not prepared to embrace the way in which things are done there? Unfortunately, there always seems to be people like you who, instead of learning about a different way of doing things, rather whines and complains. The world is a big place Graham – don’t be so narrow-minded and try and enjoy what it has to offer.

      • Zak

        @ Claire – I am South African and played soccer whilst growing up and watched many games! I never felt the need to use a Vuvuzela? It’s the first time i have actually muted a sporting event!

    • Considering that the post-apartheid South African state is barely 16 years old, a “fad” that’s been around for 15 years could in fact be considered pretty ancient. :)

  • Tom

    Hey, my country’s culture is to blow referee whistles. So you guys can complain till the cows come home…. DUHH!
    Vuvuzelas sucks, it’s horrible, disrupting sound, stupid. It’s not part of any culture. Especially the African culture, where they have so many awesome drums and percussion! why the vuvuzelas, why????

  • I did not say it was part of African culture, but instead I explicitely said SOCCER!

  • Alex

    The vuvuzela will never be banned. As simple as that. The reasons are obvious.

    1.) I don’t think most people realize what they are asking.
    You are asking a country to ban something that INCONVENIENCES you.
    Really ? You are serious ? Something bothers you and it should be banned ?
    Get serious.The sad fact is your convenience isn’t reason enough to do Anything
    let alone ban the vuvuzela.

    2.) Headaches ? Interesting how everyone at the stadium seem fine , smiling and happy. Ive watched every game and my head is fine. Now either me and everyone at the stadium are superhuman or the people complaining have AMAZINGLY sensitive ears.

    3.) To those who complain you cant hear the commentary.
    Instead of asking a whole nation to keep quiet why not call your tv station and ask
    them to turn the knob called “CROWD LEVEL” down a notch and the “Commentary
    Level” up a notch? I know… its amazingly simple.

    So in the end all reason to call for a banning is based on bias. And they don’t even realise they’re dong it. Typical hu ?

    • Rick

      It’s not just the people watching at home complaining about that horrific noise. It’s also the players. It’s been very difficult for them to communicate with each other during the matches. So stop being so ignorant in trying to defend a stupid piece of plastic that is annoying the entire world. I vote to never have the World Cup in South Africa ever again nor in any other country where they have an annoying instrument that people use during a soccer match.

    • Tony UK

      Alex – I agree 100%

      I have been to two games and I had a fantastic time. I had no problem chatting to my mates and my ears are just fine. As for the TV drone that everyone is complaining about – I just don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

      Bored people complain about silly stuff like this – get a life!!

  • Diego

    It’s not just the fans, the players are complaining about the Vuvuzelas, including important ones such as Leo Messi, who said they “make difficult communication between players”
    In today’s Holland match, for example, there was a time Robin Van Persie had to talk to the referee and apologize, because he couldn’t hear the whistle in an offside play due to the Vuvuzelas.
    These kind of situations are making FIFA consider the petition to ban Vuvuzelas, but i would disagree, it’s now a symbolic part of this WC and that should be respected

  • niru

    Isn’t there some decibel level that is unfit for human health…because the noise of this horn will definitely cause some serious mental and tympanum damage.Shouldn’t the WHO get involved and open the eyes of the FIFA heads.
    Its so disappointing when you have to turn down the volume to practically zero to avoid that drone.
    You can even see that the players on the field seem to have communication problems due to the deluge of sound.
    SAVE OUR EARS…SAVE OUR EARS…SAVE OUR EARS..we have enough problems already with that lightweight football…

  • It wouldn’t exactly be practical to ban them – what would you do with people who insisted? Put them in jail? Beat them up? No, of course not, someone has to come up with an incentive scheme! Cash for vuvuzelas? Free ear plugs? A lottery?

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