Monday, May 25, 2020

What makes the vuvuzela so special?

It is near impossible to talk of next year’s FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Africa for the first time, without making mention of the vuvuzela.

Adored by scores of Africa’s die-hard football fans and vilified by some as nothing more than a source of perpetual noise, one thing is for certain, the vuvuzela will take center stage in the coming year.

But what makes the vuvuzela both the source of pleasure and controversy?

Does it court controversy because it is loud or because it is African and reminds the more conservative human beings of the ‘unruly’ nature of Africa?

Maybe the answer lies in both. That the vuvuzela (lepatata in Setswana) is loud is undeniable. The term vuvuzela is a Zulu word that denotes, ‘spreading something all over’, much in the same way one would spread salt or spices over a meal. After all, the vuvuzela’s sole aim is to spread noise all over a football pitch and spur one’s team forward to victory.
A stadium packed with supporters embellished in team colours, painted faces and wearing their team regalia is one thing, but when the same supporters are blowing away at thousands of vuvuzela’s, it is a totally different experience altogether.

Electrifying in every sense of the word!

Probably the hiccup, and what many people have failed to appreciate, is that the vuvuzela, above all things, is symbolic of the ambitions and spirit of the continent. You have to live in Africa to get tired of the stereotypical depiction of Africa by the West as a land of bloodthirsty gun-totting savages.
The only blood Africa will be baying for will be on the soccer pitch next year using the vuvuzela.

The vuvuzela is, in every way, Africa’s voice, beckoning everyone to listen and realise that good can come out of the ‘Dark Continent’. For a change next year, Africa must trade its guns for the vuvuzela as we gear for the event of a lifetime. As in the name of the Gloved One’s never to be concerts, “This is it” for Africa.

In as much as the football fans of South America are world-renowned for the Mexican Wave, the Middle East fans for putting up an impressive display of fireworks during football matches, so the vuvuzela is blown for drawing the world’s attention to a unique blend of the African magic.

Surely, all attempts to have a silent World Cup next year by banning the vuvuzela must be met with increased resistance and an equal frenzy of blowing the vuvuzela by all football fans as we shun the move to silence the African voice, which, in many quarters of life, continues to play a secondary role.

Can you bear to even imagine the prospect of a silent World Cup next year?

For all those conspiring against the vuvuzela the dictum, “If you can’t beat them, then join them”, carries a wealth of sound advice. More than just a blaring horn, the vuvuzela represents both the voice and spirit of Africa.
In full defence of the vuvuzela, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter said, “Yes the vuvuzelas are different and, honestly, I don’t hear them anymore. We have brought the World Cup to Africa where the atmosphere and culture are different. The vuvuzela is part of the local football culture and adds to the flavour of football.”

Thank you, Sepp, for saying it as it is! Blowing the vuvuzela is the only way I know to get people’s attention, so excuse me if I might just be a ‘bit’ loud.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.