Soccer And The Vuvuzelas
LIANE HANSEN, host:
You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
Later today, the U.S. soccer team plays an improbable game against the mighty Brazilians in the finals of the Confederations Cup. It's being held in South Africa, and it's kind of a tune-up for next year's World Cup there. But the tune that viewers will hear is the loud buzz of the vuvuzela, a plastic horn.
NPR's Mike Pesca brings the noise.
MIKE PESCA: The sounds of soccer are foreign to most U.S. ears. The great Brazilian's name is pronounced kaka(ph). The Spanish midfielder, who was somehow vanquished in the last round by the Americans, spells his name X-A-V-I, but you say it shavi(ph). Then there is this sound.
(Soundbite of a vuvuzela)
PESCA: When sold in America, they're called stadium horns - in South Africa, vuvuzela. They're all the buzz at the Confederations Cup providing the score for every score, but also for every pass, pause and substitution. Television networks throughout the world asked that soccer's governing body, FIFA, ban them. South Africans were appalled, claiming they were a legitimate expression of their culture.
In order to let you decide, I will keep the sound running for the next few minutes of this report. Okay, I have been asked to stop. But when reporters asked Sepp Blatter if he could stop the vuvuzela, the FIFA president issued this spirited defense of the instrument.
Mr. SEPP BLATTER (President, FIFA): I have always said when they come to Africa and to South Africa for the World Cup there will be other noises than you have generally.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BLATTER: And now you have the woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo. You have all that. You have all that.
PESCA: Blatter knew that it would be seen as neo-imperialist if you were to ban an instrument said to have derived from the kudu horn. To Grant Wahl, who has been covering the Confederations Cup for Sports Illustrated, the vuvuzela is more a noisemaker than an instrument. They produce a noise he likens to…
Mr. GRANT WAHL (Reporter, Sports Illustrated): A million bees suddenly in your ear.
PESCA: Wahl says you never really get used to the vuvuzela, but you put up with it, though not all the athletes were so understanding.
Mr. WAHL: Xabi Alonso, the Spanish midfielder had a different idea, though. He complained bitterly about the vuvuzelas and said it really affected the way he played and he hoped they were gone for 2010.
PESCA: Instead, it is Alonso who is gone from the current competition. The vuvuzelas seem to have won the day. But serious questions remain. I put those questions directly to a vuvuzela. First of all, thank you for joining me. Can I call you vuvu?
(Soundbite of a vuvuzela)
PESCA: Okay. What do you say to critics who worry that this afternoon's game would be a great opportunity to get Americans interested in soccer, but if potential fans tune into the game, they'll be put off by the incessant background noise?
(Soundbite of vuvuzela)
PESCA: Well, it is noise. How can you say it's music?
(Soundbite of vuvuzela and band)
PESCA: Well, I stand corrected. For the vuvuzela, this is Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.