South Africans love the vuvuzela, the cheap, three-foot long horn that makes every TV broadcast sound like there’s a weird buzz in the background.
The vuvuzela is iconic to South Africa's soccer culture, but players, fans and broadcasters alike complain of the highly disruptive noise the plastic horn produces. In this photo, a fan uses paper earplugs to block the sound of the horn.
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Soccer fans hold up their vuvuzelas as they watch the opening ceremony.
A boy in Soweto blows a vuvuzela next to a street painting of the iconic celebratory horn.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
South African boys blow their vuvuzelas as they wait to attend the training session of the Cameroon national team in Durban, South Africa.
Mayor Boris Johnson of London blows a vuvuzela beside the South Africa World Cup's mascot, Zakumi, during a special event to mark the start of the tournament.
Dutch fans cheer in front of a giant screen showing more fans blowing vuvuzelas prior to the Group E soccer match between the Netherlands and Denmark.
A Cameroon fan blows his vuvuzela at the Group E match between Japan and Cameroon.
"To answer all your messages re the vuvuzelas, I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound… I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?"
Wondering how to pronounce this "tradition"?
How To Pronounce Vuvuzela
Tradition aside, many players have criticized the vuvuzelas for interefering with communication on the field. Argentina’s Lionel Messi says they make his job harder.
The captain of the French team Patrice Evra blamed a disappointing tie with Uruguay on the vuvuzelas.
"We can't sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas," he said. "People start playing them from 6 a.m. We can't hear one another out on the pitch because of them."
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal says that though the vuvuzela is irritating for players, they'll just have to find a way to deal with it — like any other obstacle on the field. "It's part of people who like to celebrate and who like to make noise. We have to respect it."
Capitalizing on the buzz around their product, the patent holder of the vuvuzela is trying to extend the brand, launching a hotline aimed at providing "the means for people to raise their voices about ethical or criminal issues in their workplace in a clear and effective manner."
Countering criticism, their makers hold out that the vuvuzela is very "lekker" — South African slang for "cool."
Curious why they call this noisy horn a vuvuzela?
The etymology of the vuvuzela
Still can't get enough about the vuvuzela? Listen to Mike Pesca's radio piece Tuesday on All Things Considered and his piece on the vuvuzela controversy last June during the Confederations Cup.