World Cup vuvuzelas can buzz off

Think of the world’s most annoying sound – fingernails on a blackboard, a buzz saw, water dripping, someone nagging you – multiply the volume 1000 times and you have the vuvuzela. It is the biggest blight on the World Cup. For the first time in my life, here in South Africa I am taking earplugs to the football. The idea of an ancient mobile phone made from the horns of the kudu is a romantic one. But the modern vuvuzela is made of plastic and decidedly unromantic. The ear-splitting din has to be heard to be believed. From a distance tens of thousands of them sound like a swarm of gigantic killer bees or a Formula One race. Their incessant trumpeting turns a football match into a form of aural torture. I love the singing at football matches, and the worst thing about them is they stop the singing. And get this – the ground announcers actually encourage people to blow the infernal things. You can’t hear the guy next to you (sometimes this is a blessing, admittedly). There is no escape – some people actually blow their vuvuzelas outside my hotel room at five o’clock in the morning. No wonder so many people want them banned, but FIFA says it doesn’t want to “Europeanise” Africa’s first World Cup. A lady cutting my hair the other day told me the world’s only funny vuvuzela story. Her friend’s primary-schooler was watching a rerun of Ben Hur, complete with Roman trumpeters, when he came running up to her and said: “Mum! They even had vuvuzelas when Jesus was alive! Big, shiny gold ones!” I have made one exception to my anti-vuvuzela stance. It was the day I visited a black township in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, with Football Federation Australia boss Frank Lowy and federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis, who were donating 9000 desks. The reception given to all Australians that day would have brought a tear to a glass eye. Women stood with hands on their hearts and mouthed “We love you” as our media bus was led on a procession around Mohlakano. Big African mamas hugged the life out of us, and hundreds of kids cheered, banged drums and – inevitably – blew vuvuzelas. Even I could not begrudge them that simple celebration.It was a day I won’t forget in a hurry.It made me realise how powerful football is in so many areas of life. A donation of $150,000 worth of educational equipment may not seem a massive sum in Australia, but it can make a big difference in a land where many kids don’t have school desks. What a great pity it was that family tragedy kept Nelson Mandela, perhaps the most towering world figure of my generation, away from the World Cup opening. If one person deserved to be there, it was him. He has done more than anyone to unify his nation, and the game of football seems to be playing a unifying role during the tournament, too. I hope its effect continues long after the circus has moved on. Goodness knows South Africa needs it. It is a great sadness that there are so many wonderful yet estranged people in this wonderful, strange land. Strange enough that they possess some of the world’s most resonant and soulful singing voices, especially in choirs and mass assemblies like football grounds, yet they persist in assaulting our ears with vuvuzelas.
Nanjing Night Net

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