Vuvuzela: cultural artefact, or awful din?
What is three feet long, comes in many colours, and requires a lot of strength to blow? The vuvuzela - and it could ruin your enjoyment of the World Cup.
By Conor Hogan
South Africa and Kaiser Chiefs fan (the club, not the band from Leeds) Saddam Maake claims to have invented the vuvuzela in the '60s, using the rubber off his bicycle horn and some aluminium.
It became popular in club football there in the '90s, with people bringing their own versions with them to matches. In 2001, South African company Masincedane Sport began mass-producing an even noisier plastic version and its popularity continued to soar.
Their perpetual drone is meant to resemble a herd of storming Elephants, but sounds more like a cow being horribly tortured. The fans blow the horn constantly throughout the match, whether there is a throw in, a goal chance, or a lull in play.
In fact, if you were to close your eyes, you would have no idea by the crowd reaction, whether it was an exciting or an awful match.
Fifa originally planned to ban the vuvuzela, claiming the one metre horns could be used as a dangerous weapon by hooligans. Sepp Blatter had a change of mind though, stating that "We should not try and Europeanise an African World Cup".
Their use however, was heavily criticised during the 2009 Confederations Cup. "They are a distraction and do nothing for the atmosphere," claimed Xabi Alonso. "I think they should be banned. They make it very difficult for the players to communicate with each other [and] at home watching TV it really was annoying," Dutch Coach Bert Van Wijk said.
There are also fears that people could suffer permanent hearing damage from prolonged exposure to them. During the Confederations Cup matches, the average sound exposure was over 100 decibels (peaking at nearly 145 decibels). To put that into context, workers require hearing protection for anything over 85 decibels.
So make sure, when you pull up a chair for your first armchair game of this World Cup, to lower the surround sound - and turn off that sub-woofer...