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Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Vuvuzela: Love it or hate it?

The vuvuzela: Inciting passions as much as the football

I was going to crack on with the science series, looking at fatigue, but something that I almost have to discuss is the controversy that is rapidly building momentum regarding the vuvuzela.  This is the name of the traditional horn that South African football fans blow at football matches.  If you have watched even one single minute of the action so far, you know exactly what it is.  Either that, or you are concerned that every match is about to be halted by the world's largest swarm of bees.

Last year, when the world first met the vuvuzela during the Confederations Cup, there were reports that broadcasters in Europe received complaints from viewers who thought that the broadcaster had messed up the sound.  Or they thought there was something wrong with the TV sets.  Well, now, nine matches in, you know that the sound exists.  The question is:  How do you feel about it?

Growing resentment and patriotic defence

If you hate it, and find it impossible to sit through 90 minutes of a match, then you're not alone.  In fact, your company is growing at an alarming rate.  A facebook site called FIFA-Ban the annoying vuvuzela (horn) from the South Africa World Cup has been set up, and already it has over 60,000 members.  More remarkably, in the 5 or 10 minutes that you might take to read this post, membership will have grown by about 200 people.  And that's on a Sunday afternoon/evening.  It seems destined to build even more in the week.

The controversy over the horn is nothing new.  The complaints around the Confederations Cup last year led to discussion over a potential ban.  That was met with patriotic fury from within South Africa, where the general consensus was that it was part of the atmosphere, the unique character of the tournament.  Interestingly, some of the most vocal criticism now seems to be coming from SA, because the vuvuzela is being blown everywhere, not just in stadia.  Shopping malls, airports, public places - the sound is ubiquitous and I think people's patience is wearing thin.

In the stadium, however, there was encouragement for its use, because it was felt that the horn, being so loud and so distracting to players, would give South Africa a home-ground advantage because we were the only team accustomed to it.  This is debatable, and there are some good studies on home-ground advantage that I'll look at in future.  But the ultimate result of this is that FIFA decided that the Vuvuzela will stay.  Sepp Blatter announced that the vuvuzela will stay, and stay it has.

Medical and scientific concerns - hearing and illness

On a medical and scientific note, there are some concerns too.  Studies have found that the noise levels from a vuvuzela exceed what are considered safe limits for employees.  A Swiss-based company's testing showed that at its loudest, the sound registered 127 dB, compared to a chainsaw at 100 dB.  In SA, a research study found that hearing was affected, and does not seem to return to normal for some time after being exposed to the sound.  And that was just a few horns - the combined effects of perhaps 30,000 in a stadium are anyone's guess.

And then on a perhaps even more serious note, there are concerns over the spread of infection and illness as a result of 30,000 people blowing into the horn in an enclosed space.  South Africa has one of the highest tuberculosis (TB) infection rates in the world, and it is spread through droplets, usually when coughing, spitting or sneezing.  But what about blowing on a plastic horn?  It's a real concern and is another reason why the safety has been questioned.

Communication problems

As for the players, they have complained.  Lionel Messi, best in the world and who had a brilliant first game against Nigeria, said that it was "like being deaf", making communication impossible. Other players have described them as annoying, and Patrice Evra blamed it for France's poor showing against Uruguay, though I'm not sure even the most ardent hater of the horn would sympathize with this excuse.  Unpleasant, perhaps.  But I think this is a relatively minor concern, certainly not grounds to ban it.

My personal view is that it actually doesn't improve the atmosphere. A big part of the atmosphere comes from the crowd's responses to what happens on the field - they sing, cheer, gasp, boo and encourage, but the vuvuzela negates all of this, and so the match actually has no personality.  There are no "valleys" or "peaks", no shifts, only one sound.  If you had no commentary and your eyes were closed, different matches would be indistinguishable.  And their constancy does build and build a level of irritation, which, combined with their sounds pretty much everywhere in South Africa, means I certainly would not complain at a ban.

The broadcaster & sponsor problem

Players and spectators aside, when the broadcasters or sponsors begin to complain to FIFA, then they must sit up and take notice.  Few would defend FIFA for its commercial "muscle" (or greed, whichever one prefers, depending on your viewpoint), but two parties FIFA must look after are their sponsors and their broadcasters.  Both pour enormous volumes of money into the organization, being the two largest sources of revenue by some margin.

And if viewership drops, then the value of both are diminished, and that, more than anything, will get FIFA's attention.  If broadcasters lose viewership, then their potential advertising revenue drops, and that is no laughing matter.  And so if viewership is down, then you can expect the big broadcasters to be leaning heavily on FIFA.  So too, the sponsors need high viewership, because they track the success of their sponsorship partly based on "exposure", which basically means number of views.  Fewer people watching means fewer views, reduced sponsor recognition or awareness, and while that won't affect FIFA's balance right now, it doesn't do much for happy sponsors.  And happy sponsors tend to have bigger wallets.

So, bottom line, TV viewership holds the key.  I will definitely be looking out for that, because I strongly suspect that the neutral fans, and maybe even some die-hard football fans will turn off unless really big teams are playing.  The numbers will come out - will they be 20% lower than Germany 2006? Time zones are no excuse, and so this will be revealing.

What to do?

It's anyone's guess what will be done.  Danny Jordaan, the head of the local organizing committee, hinted that they were relooking at it, having cleared it in the first place.  His words, which confirm the complaints from all sides, are the most 'negative' from anyone involved in the tournament so far, and if I had to read between the lines, I'd say something is brewing.  They certainly reveal that the complaints have been very vociferous, and from 'important' parties.

FIFA have said that they'll ban the vuvuzelas if there were "grounds to do so".  Safety was the one criteria mentioned, and FIFA said they'd ban them if they were used as missiles.  I guess if worst came to worst, FIFA could arrange for a few fans to throw their horns on the field and then issue a ban!  Stranger things have happened, especially when massive money is involved!

Maybe the compromise is to have a block or two of the stands allocated for vuvuzelas.  The problem is that tickets have been sold, and so most fans would not be in these zones.  A straight ban is likely to create major discontent among local fans, accusations of racism, discrimination, exploitation are likely.  I guess there is a sense in which you can understand the likely unhappiness. 

Either way, one group of people will be unhappy, and having given SA the chance to host the party, it may be deemed ungrateful to keep the host from choosing their own "music".  Difficult one for FIFA, that's for sure.

I'd love to know your thoughts, as always.

Ross

44 Comments:

hughf said...

I'll watch the games no matter what but my wife is refusing to watch because of the sound - which supports the theory that this could be affecting viewing figures. On the other hand, surely the broadcasters can just turn down the microphones?

thejibber said...

Like I said to your question on Twitter, it is awful. It absolutely kills whatever atmosphere there is in the stadium - you can't follow the crowd's emotions.

Score a goal, get an unfair red card, win the world cup - it all sounds the same.

Check out the wonderful picture sequence, it is hilarious.

http://i48.tinypic.com/2rp7jgy.jpg http://i49.tinypic.com/3355n6h.jpg
http://i49.tinypic.com/51zsjq.jpg http://i45.tinypic.com/jfhyk1.jpg

Thus - it doesn't "create a carneval atmosphere", it isn't "a South African type of atmosphere" - it is nothing but a noise telling us nothing about emotions.

The fact that most people find it a terrible noise is besides the point - the main problem is it kills the atmosphere.

And without atmosphere, the World Cup is ruined. South Africa is about to ruin the legacy of their chance at hosting the biggest sporting tournament in the world.

That South Africans don't find atmosphere at the football welcoming, is mind baffling. Do people go to matches in the local league? Are the horns in place there as well?

Do they even care for football?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Hughf

Thanks for the comment. I think the problem for the broadcaster is that they can't tune out only the vuvuzela, so you either have no crowd noise, or all crowd noise. I wonder what the impact would be if they did it? Depends whether viewers value the crowd more than they hate the horns!

To thejibber:

Thanks for the inputs, here and Twitter. I'm with you on this one, as I said. The vuvuzela kills the 'personality' of the crowd, just like your picture sequence shows.

I also worry about this being the 'legacy' of the tournament. This is where I'd love to know the perceptions across the world. I mean, some people obviously enjoy it. I believe that the sale of vuvuzelas has been strong in the UK. One wonders if that is driven by novelty?

But if the tide turns strongly negative, and say 4 in 5 people hate them, then yes, it will tarnish the tournament. Not just financially.

And lastly, they're a fixture in our local football. For as long as I can remember, they've been used by local fans. And those local fans do clearly enjoy it - they're probably the ones driving the 'orchestra' in the stadiums so far. I think that what has happened is that the noise levels, and the profile has been raised a few notches by the size of the tournament, whereas before, it was smaller and less intrusive. The spotlight is now on it, and people aren't liking what it shows.

Ross

Anonymous said...

ross,

thanks for your feedback, I was afraid I could be interpreted as coming across as "anti (South) African" and in the next turn be accused of racism. I just can't stand watching football and not be treated to the atmosphere that is actually created.

as for your response to Hughf, it would be funny to see what the reactions would be. We can't hear the crowd as it is, but removing the sound wouldn't solve that problem - it would then be a case of how much you hate the vuvuzela vs how much you hate the strange silence it would create (if can you 'create' silence?).

Interesting about the vuvuzela in local games, I was informed earlier today that it only started off in this millenium, that is obviously wrong then.

thanks again

Anonymous said...

sorry the anon above is thejibber, couldn't quite work this thing out ...

The Tooting Trumpet said...

It does kill the input of the crowd as it reacts to play - such a shame.

This might be useful to some readers - http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/33659/get-rid-official-vuvuzela-tv

Boris Hornbei said...

The solution is really very simple. But first, consider how broadcasters in the U.S. handle the really stupifyingly dumb refrain, played over and over, by the USC (University of Southern California) band during football games. They use "shotgun" mics that are highly directional and reduce the sound to a bare murmur in the background.

Of course, one marching band makes a tiny fraction of the noise of 30,000 vuvuzelas. But, no need to despair: simply TURN OFF the sound feed from the stadium. Instead, substitute crowd sound from a much more civilized game environment - say, Brazil's monster Estádio do Maracanã. Viewers happy. Advertisers happy. Vuvuzela-playing anencephaloids happy.

Boris Hornbei said...

Oh, yeah - p.s. To match the sound to the game play, the broadcasters can simply turn up the volume at the appropriate moments. All around, a viable solution, and pleasing for the implied two fingers it raises to the vuvus - or one finger, depending on nationality.

Rohan said...

I still find it hard to believe the debate that the Vuvuzela is causing.

FIFA have marketed this World Cup as AFRICA. Fans in Africa embrace the Vuvuzela as part of their footballing culture.

People really need to accept it and just watch the football. How would they feel if someone came into their country and World Cup trying to impose their views on them.

Think this is a fair and very good article but have found the global response to be disappointing to put it mildly.

OhPinchy said...

Can anyone from South Africa and elsewhere in Africa confirm just how long the vuvuzelas have been in widespread use for sporting occassions? Have they been used in such large stadia with such large attendance before or mostly in smaller stadia/attendances where their intermittent use has not greated a droning noise of the magnitude currently being heard during the World Cup matches?


Apart from my dislike of the vuvuzela noise due to it removing the games of their personality on TV (e.g. I could discern no audible reaction to Tim Cahill's ridiculous red card this evening), my main question is - is there any connection between the use of the vuvuzelas and the bizarre lack of any pictures of the crowd during the game?

The World Cup is at least in part about the carnival atmosphere and seeing all the different supporters from around the world encourage their team in various ways is at least part of its widespread attraction. Why then, are we not seeing those pictures? Is it just because South African directors always focus on the play (someone should suggest they satisfy their global audiences' expectations if so)? Or is because (purely speculating here), some people in the crowd are visibly upset by the noise of the horns around them and the directors don't want to show those pictures?

My prediction is that the market research analysis will be in within a week and then within a week of that FIFA will have made the decision to ban the vuvuzela (which I believe will be difficult to enforce and regrettable when a balanced compromise might be preferrable) will be made purely on commercial grounds.

Capello Fabio said...

Now it has started and it's a bug, there are a couple of petitions online to ban the vuvuzela from the World Cup. Here's one:
http://www.petitiononline.com/2010WC/petition.html

thejibber said...

Rohan,

fair play, go ahead, blow the horns at South Africa matches.

But is it not poor form on the host nation's part to welcome, say, the South Koreans, who usually create a great carnival atmosphere at the football, by drowning them out?

It's not even like one of their games means owt to yous!

All we can hear is the constant Vuvuzela noise, no carnival, no atmosphere.

So far, in my lifetime, this is easily the worst World Cup. Simply coz football, especially at a spectacle like the World Cup, without the interaction with the crowd is pointless.

Anonymous said...

The people who think the vuvuzela droning sound "removes the atmosphere" are being cultural elitists. It's a fact, don't try to argue your way out of that.

The droning sound of the trumpet IS THE ATMOSPHERE. It is the atmosphere that the people of South Africa WANT TO SHARE WITH THE WORLD.

Maybe the fact that everyone is getting annoyed by it is because they are stuck in their cultural narrow mindedness. Oh sure you can say it "sounds annoying" but this is coming from people who prefer the sounds of "American Idol" and "Adult Contemporary Rock" ... I'm sorry but your plastic cookie-cutter opinions on what vibrations of air are "worthy" and what vibrations of air are "not worthy" are pathetically limited.

Open your mind, open your ears, feel the energy, breath, and soul of the vuvuzela. Feel the roar of life in South Africa, and know that your culture and race is probably not the originators of human life on earth. Don't be jealous.

Scott said...

"The people who think the vuvuzela droning sound removes the atmosphere are being cultural elitists" followed by "know that your culture and race is probably not the originators of human life on earth. Don't be jealous."

Good grief.

It's not anti-racial to disapprove of being a poor host. It could be a freakin' bag-pipe from the 'Craig for all I know. It's just bad form to overwhelmingly annoy your guests, whether you're black, white, or purple. Keep it up, if that's the intent, the world is watching.

Anonymous said...

Accusations of cultural elitism are, at best, unhelpful and completely ignore the fact that they are potentially harmful to hearing and almost uniformly disliked by players outside the South African national team. By all mean, allow them when Bafana Bafana are playing, but let's get rid of them during other games.

Oliver said...

@ thejibber..."So far, in my lifetime, this is easily the worst World Cup. Simply coz football, especially at a spectacle like the World Cup, without the interaction with the crowd is pointless."

Gee that's taking it a bit far isn't it?

Lets focus on the football and the fact that this is Africa's WC, it is the 'Plan A' all the time for those who wished that it failed...its on, its great, now you are finding something else to complain about.
The opening game was probably one of the best in WC's I have followed (my 'lifetime >50 yo), the groups are all stiil wide open, the stadiums are full...hey there's another one that was calimed not to succeed.

I , even as an expat, felt the same before WC and thought that people would switch off. I thought it was annoying. My wife, who doesn't care much thought it ws annoying. But you know what , since it started, I got used to it. Its there, its the SA football sound, like the West Indies drums etc.

There is no wy that a ban can be implemented now. Too many people have bought it, are using it and will riot if banned.

...and we are enjoying the games now. I even got myself a bigger TV with surround sound, how about that. Stocks at retailers across Australia are extremely low in the rush to get bigger TV's..I had to settle for a shop demo in desperation on day one.

Get with it, get with the program and enjoy Africa's WC. I will be over there in 10 days and can't wait, I will be getting myself one to take to the games and extra ones as souvenirs for friends. tell me which games you will be watching and I will make sure I blow harder.

Can't wait

Ian said...

Hi Ross,

A piece in the Sunday Times by Carlos Amato titled "Players need support, not noise" strongly argues that the "The cry of the vuvuzela has zero emotion - it's a dead, meaningless noise - and when players are feeling down, the emotional fuel of song gives them the courage to recover and strike back. Where was Shosholoza on Friday? Where was Tiba ka mo? Nowhere to be heard - a scandalous failure on such a momentous night. That a people with such a collective gift for singing should fail to sing at all, on a night like Friday night, is ridiculous."

http://www.timeslive.co.za/sport/soccer/article501368.ece/Players-need-support-not-noise.

Cheers, Ian

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To thejibber:

Thanks for the follow-up. In terms of its history, I'm going to try to find that out. I remember watching a local derby (the equivalent of a Madrid-Barca game) back in high school, so we're talking maybe mid-90s, and it was there then. But it's certainly grown. I'll see if I can find out. As for being accused of racism and anti-football, as you've seen from anonymous at 2.48am, you will be! As will I for this post, no doubt!

To Rohan:

Thank you for your reasoned views, I really appreciate them. And you have a point, and this is why it's difficult for FIFA. What I am bemused by is why someone did not try to work out how to regulate the TV level of the noise compared to the in-stadium level. I am no engineer, but I am sure it would be possible to filter out just the frequency of that sound and at least minimize its effects for TV audiences.

My point there is that people watching all around the world are not necessarily interested in WHERE the tournament is played. They are not at the party, so to speak (to continue the analogy). But they hear its sounds. And it seems to me that they might have tried to keep the stadium atmosphere AND reduce the TV noise, but they didn't. So I can understand why TV viewers don't enjoy it. But I also understand that those at the games may enjoy it as part of their viewing experience.

More to come...!

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To boris:

That is an interesting solution, I wonder if we may see it in the next week or so. It might be the best compromise. Like I said in my previous comment, I still can't believe that some innovative sound engineer can't develop a filter to knock out the sound at the vuvuzela frequency. After all, the main criticism is that it's too monotonous (ie One tone!) and so you'd have thought a filter of say 80 to 100 Hz (or whatever it is) would eliminate that sound. Some crowd noise, yes, but not all.

To OhPinchy:

Excellent comments, thank you. As I say, I remember hearing the vuvuzela about 15 years ago. It is very popular among local fans. We have a big derby match here where 80,000 fans regularly watch, and it's a big part of the games. That happens maybe 3 or 4 times a year, the rest of the time, our crowds are much smaller. So that has something to do with it. The rest is, I suspect, largely cultural, which is why people like Anonymous at 2.48am will weigh in and start racial/cultural debates.

As for the lack of crowd shots, good observation. I have no idea why that is. I'm going to try to email some friends with the host broadcaster and see if they know!

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

to Anonymous at 2.48am.

I am going to be as direct as I can be (and I hope you read this).

You are not welcome here on this site with that kind of approach to a debate. you are inciting cultural differences, which ironically is exactly what you claim you are against, with your comment.

You are more than welcome to share your opinion with the rest of this site. But take a leaf out of Rohan's book (see comment at 1.27am), because it is a balanced, reasonable view.

Yours is not. How can you be so culturally arrogant that you slam people who listen to American Idol and contemporary rock? You slate their opinions as plastic cookie cutter opinions? And then finally, you have the gall to claim the moral high ground because your culture and race are the originators of human life on earth.

It is disgraceful, and I do not welcome that kind of opinion on this site.

If anyone else comes on here and criticizes the vuvuzela because it is culturally barbaric or any kind of slander, I will say the same to them. But they have not - they have expressed their opinion in a fair, balanced way. They do not like the sound, just as perhaps you do not like certain sounds, or foods.

As someone has said, I would disapprove if it was a bag-pipe, and if this tournament was in the USA, and they played rock music over the sound of the crowd for 90 minutes, I would not enjoy that either.

Yet you have turned this debate into an argument over cultural and racial superiority and it is shameful.

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Oliver

Thanks for the comments. I can tell you're super keen to get out here (you must still see if you can pop by when in Cape Town!)

I got an email from another friend who had been at the matches. He agrees with you that the sound at the games is great, and so it the atmosphere. But I think I can still see how TV viewers are affected, because they do have as much right to voice opinions on the noise as those pro have to support it.

Having said that, some are reacting very strongly. I see that there are some calling for Sepp Blatter's resignation as a result of his support for the horns, which is way extreme!

I suspect that there will be great division among spectators and viewers on this issue. The acid test will come when the media monitoring agencies come back with the early viewerships. They'll be well down, I have no doubt of this. And if this were a democracy, that would be as good as a vote!

I myself am going to a match on Saturday, and I'm looking forward to the atmosphere. Again, I'd love for TV to differ from in-stadium.

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Ian;

Thanks for the link. Good article.

I guess, to provide the alternative view, one could argue that those in favour of the vuvuzela feel that the horn does the job of singing, and then some.

before this tournament, a lot of people, including the SA coach, spoke of the advantage that the vuvuzela would give our team, mainly because of how it affected communication. I think that view was wildly over-rated, but the point is, many felt that the horn is exactly what would carry us to victory.

I have no doubt they still feel this, and so this journalist's view, which is now the opposite, is likely to polarize opinion as well! Just like the issue!

I think that hearing 80,000 people singing Shosholoza would be spine-tingling stuff. I remember in the 1995 World Cup Rugby, that became something of a theme for the tournament, and it was a rousing anthem. I remember lining up at school and singing it before the opening match, to help us get into the spirit of the tournament, and it did galvanize the support.

Perhaps the vuvuzela does the same for many people?

Ross

OhPinchy said...

Thanks for the reply Ross. I would be very interested to hear the response of the broadcasting companies as to the lack of shots of the crowd - everyone I mention it to says they've been wondering about it too. Are there any South African journalists that you know that could contact the broadcasters if your friends don't have insight?

The accusations of cultural elitism and racism are immature at best and entirely without foundation. Most of the people here in Ireland (largely neutral feelings to all WC teams...bar France!) that I've discussed the vuvuzelas with say it will cause them to at best put games they have marginal interest in on mute, and at worst to just not bother tuning in for all but the big games. That is likely replicated across many countries and I don't think it's in the best long-term interests of the game: this is not just about the WC in South Africa - if X% of people don't bother tuning into the next WC because they previously had a passing interest and that was affected by the vuvuzelas, that would be detrimental to the game.

The few I've heard defend the vuvuzelas have done so largely on the grounds that it's part of South African culture. Implicit in their comments is an assumption that it has been around for a long time and is part of the national heritage. The fact that they are plastic devices suggests they are a more recent phenomenon and everything I've seen online seems to indicate they only became popular within the last 15 years. I'm not sure that many people would regard a behaviour popularized over the last 15 years as part of a nation's cultural heritage. For what it's worth, I believe that a predecessor of the vuvuzela was found at the ancient Irish fort Eamhain Mhacha, though the belief is that this instrument was used prior to battle.

OhPinchy said...

Also meant to say that a German guy seems to have developed a reasonably effective filter to reduce the sound of the vuvuzelas: http://www.surfpoeten.de/tube/vuvuzela_filter

Ross, might be worth passing that on to your friends in the broadcasting company to see if they can do something similar to the source feed.

Anthony said...

Interesting comments. I have never been exposed to these horns before. I enjoy hearing the crowd singing - especially the teams like England who have their traditional songs. In the England-USA game I could barely hear them along with a few barely audible USA-USA chants. It's really getting on my nerves and I am tempted to mute the TV and do without the running commentary.

Jon said...

I definitely think the countinuous "bee-hive" sound is spoiling the game.

I haven't watched a full game yet because I'm getting too fatigued. After a while it is just too much. I of course watched some with muted sound but that kind of takes the fun out of it. As it is right now I rather do something better with my time.

Hope hope the broadcasters can filter the noice out, at least to such a degree that one can enjoy the game again.

Ben said...

It may be part of the host atmosphere; however I won't be watching nearly as many games because of it. The sound is too fatiguing for 90 min and it's hard to stay in the game with the sound turned off.

I have found a decent counter noise - riding my bicycle on a trainer while watching seems to semi cancel out the vuvuzela noise.

Chris said...

I was at the France game on Friday.

In the crowd sitting in the same block as me where 9 supporters from France, 2 supporters from Switzerland and a whole group of English supporters. I spoke to each of the groups and they where here for the tournament. All of them where blowing vuvzela's - more than any local.

Dotted around the ground where various people wearing jerseys showing support for their nation blowing vuvzela's.

It was the same on the way to the stadium. I got mixed up with a group of Germans and they all had them.

As I said - I was at the game. The atomosphere in the ground was insane. Better than any rugby match or cricket match I have ever been to. The only rival to the atmosphere was an English Premier League game I attended at Craven Cottage which was different becuase of the singing, chants and so on. We don't really do that here in South Africa though.

I do agree with the comments regarding the lack of atmosphere on TV though. Not sure what the solution is. The vuvuzela is much ingrained with SA soccer as the soccer ball itself.

Oh, and France didn't win because they had no creativity and didn't take their chances. Not becuase of a trumpet.

Anonymous said...

check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7bEiKNn-9c on how to filter out the noise :)

Conrad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conrad said...

I for one will clearly take the side of banning these annoying horns. I will also take the side that the horns drown out/stifle/nullify the spirit and emotion of the game. Having been to South African and hearing the marvelous rhythmic, harmonic and choral arrangements performed by various SA choirs, as well as other African nations, the use of these drowning instruments is beyond me. Ok, I get it (in some sense) that this is SA football.

I think there is a point that most everyone has missed. South Africa is this year’s host for the world game – not it’s dictator. It is not a SA or FIFA right to take away the flavour’s of the world. Instead, the world – tourists and fans – who love football want to come to SA to experience the country, but at the same time, cheer on their nations football hero’s in a manner unique to their own country. Thus, each country has their own unique style of support from the ballads of England to the rhythmic and driving beat of the Brazilians. Though I am willing to be wrong, can someone tell me an instance in the past 50 years where the host nation has allowed such annoyance?

As an American and fan of this game for over 40 years I can remember at no time where the sharing of the world football stage has been so usurped by the pestering noise of these horns. Before someone throws the elitist stone in my direction I can remember very clearly that after attending 6 World Cup matches in the US during the 1994 I can remember no instance of there being an imposition of ‘our’ culture over the worlds.

As a point of reinforcement, I can remember with distinct clarity where I was able to attend games involving Nigeria and Brazilian, where I was permitted to “be both” for 90 minutes. In both matches I had some how managed to obtain tickets at midfield. So boring and under appreciated were Americans for football at that time that I moved to behind the goals of each game to ‘hang out’ with the Nigerians in one game and the Brazilians in the other. Both groups welcomed me openly, gave me bits of the appropriate attire, as well as instrumentation to partake in their ‘party.’ It was absolutely fantastic as we danced and sang and rose and fell with the flow of the game. It was truly unique and a cherished memory as there was no animosity or racial divide – simply a group of unified people enjoying our portion of the world stage.

Granted, many fans from various nations seem to have adopted the Vuvuzela. However, I am willing to bet that if the horns were to disappear, a more enjoyable fan experience would appear. My fear is that since FIFA was waffled on this issue, we may be stuck with noise. But that’s just my opinion……..

Though I will continue to watch all the matches I can this year I will now remember this World Cup as the one with those annoying and rubbish Vuvuzela horns. So, while I am “all in for South Africa,” and wish it the greatest of success, I think it is important for the organizers to recognize that they are the hosts for the World Cup. Thus, to impose a ‘SA tradition’ over the world’s stage is a little disconcerting.

Along with being a host comes the inherent responsibility of allowing your guests to enjoy their own sporting nationality with all the vigor they can muster rather than suppress it under a curtain of noise and potential annoyance. With that same thought, SA’s guests not only come to the country, but also tune in around the world to watch. It is truly a global experience…not ‘just’ a SA one.

Anyway, that is just my opinion. As always, Ross…thanks for the opportunity to express it.

Anonymous said...

Broadcasters can use dish microphones to hear the ref like American football. But in the preamp section, add a notch filter to notch out the infernal 233HZ and its harmonics. It will let a little leak through, but nicely improve the sound. Until then, you can mute the TV and play music.

This problem has been ongoing for a while. Several years ago I was in a bar with a soccer match and there was the SAME vuvuzela noise. So, it's been ongoing for a while and not just in South Africa.

Nick said...

I don't think that banning the vuvuzela for the world cup is a lack of appreciation of South African football culture or any sort of snobbery. It's just wanting to watch sport and enjoy it. Justifying keeping them by just saying that we should apprecite the SA football culture more and not be snobs is a bit disingenuous. In Eastern Europe, Italy and Spain there have been numerous instances of racial abuse to players. I don't think that people defending the vuvuzela as part of the SA culture would accept banannas being thrown on the pitch as part of someone elses. (and neither would I)
I just want to watch a game where I don't have a drone in the background - I'm certainly only watching the big games. And even then I'm on the verge of switching the sound off.

Ian said...

The supposed vuvuzela-advantage as communication-disruptor is exaggerated as I'm sure any top-level team, with the help of their sport psychologist, would take the necessary steps to prepare the players for this type of environment. With regard to the effect of crowd noise on the referees’ performance, two interesting research papers concluded that

"the presence of crowd noise had a dramatic effect on the decisions made by referees. Those viewing the challenges with background crowd noise were more uncertain in their decision making and awarded significantly fewer fouls (15.5%) against the home team, compared with those watching in silence" [Psychology of Sport and Exercise 3(4): 261-272, 2002].

“the presence of crowd noise resulted in significantly greater leniency toward the home side. Furthermore, when exposed to crowd noise, participants who exhibited greatest leniency toward the home side were also likely to have greater anxiety and mental effort scores. Accompanying increases in cognitive anxiety and mental effort suggest participants anticipated, and attempted to avoid further negative consequences of anxiety produced by making an unpopular decision, resulting in fewer decisions awarded against the home side” [Journal of Sport Behavior 30(2): 130-145, 2007]

This would suggest that the vuvuzela (silence, white noise) is drowning out the crowd noise (human voices, music) that could be advantages to the home team. Ironically then, the vuvuzela might have negated an important aspect of the home ground advantage! I suppose it could be argued that top-level referees are prepared for this type of environment and are made aware of the crowd noise phenomena! My feeling is that referees are not emotionless decision makers and will be affected to a greater or lesser degree by certain types of crowd noise.

If some people find the sound of the vuvuzela "rousing", enjoy! I find it difficult though to even attempt to compare the wonderous sound of +80 000 people singing in unison to that of a toneless beehive! In my opinion there is just something about human voices in unison, filled with passion and fervour, that carry across that something special which is sure to add that spark to players on the pitch. Are you aware of any studies comparing the effect of different sounds and volumes on the mood, concentration levels, motivation and performance of soccer and rugby players? I tried a quick search on Highwire but couldn’t find anything. Here’s an interesting piece titled “National identity and sports performance: Should England have their own national anthem?” http://istadia.com/blog/andybarton/525

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ian, Conrad,Nick and Anonymous

Thank you for your comments.

Ian, I did a talk about a week ago at Sports Science where I discussed this home ground advantage issue, and I used those two studies you've mentioned! And my conclusion, like yours, is that the Vuvuzela is just as likely to remove home advantage as add to it! Later on in this series on the science of soccer, I'll do a post or two on it!

I haven't seen anything on the effect of different sounds and volumes on mental aspects of performance though. Very difficult to measure, I guess. I'll see if I can find something, but I'm doubtful.

To Conrad:
What a great view, thank you for expressing it so eloquently. I agree with you entirely, and as a South African, it frustrates me that we are so "arrogant" as hosts to recognize this ourselves.

Ross

Mark said...

Hi Ross,

Love the topics on your site – they certainly stir up heated debate! Et tu, Vuvu?

Probably because vuvuzelas are a lot like smoking in that the annoyance is largely on the side of those hearing the noise rather than making it, people tend to take the issue very personally. It quickly degenerates to schoolboy level where one side demands the right to blow their horns and the other demands the right to NOT be sonically assaulted. Ironically, there is one extremely important topic lost in all this ‘emotional noise’. Buried in their personal crusades, people seem to have forgotten about the impact on the players and the game.

This is a site based on science so it is a relief to be able to return to tangibles that can be proved in a laboratory. Regardless of what anyone feels about watching the game, the cacophony of noise is having a negative effect on the soccer. We are watching the best players in the world, so they are adjusting admirably, but the noise is preventing them from playing as well as they can. The reason is simple. In any ball sport, and indeed in most sports, the ability to hear is vitally important. Important cues about the speed, spin and flight of the ball are obtained from hearing the ball strike of either team mates or opponents. Take these cues away or severely restrict them, and it impacts negatively on performance. The new Jabulani ball is a handful, or is that a footful, but add the handicap of not being able to properly hear it being struck and it explains the many missed passes and the players not reacting appropriately to the movements of the ball. Dare I say it, but it may also partially explain the unfortunate Green’s blunder.

So regardless of which side of the fence you are on and what ‘atmosphere’ the spectators are experiencing, the vuvuzelas are undoubtedly reducing the quality of the skills we are seeing. Obviously, there is more to sport and soccer than merely skill, and handicapping players or contestants often leads to exciting and unpredictable results, so this is not to say that we won’t see good contests. However, it does mean that we won’t see players performing to their maximum potential. And of course, this plays right into the hands of the hosts because reducing the skills of all contestants plays right into the hands of those on the lower ends of the soccer scale.

Trevor said...

Thought the article was very balanced, thank you.

As far as a TV-only-observer in far off NZ is concerned, the vuvuzela buzz sounds indistinguishable from the noise which made up most of the crowd noise at some of the Indian cricket grounds hosting the IPL series this year. I wondered at the time if it was a regional characteristic, but maybe sound engineers at some stadia were better at filtering the drone out.

My personal opinion is that subtle sounds are rather more crucial to judgment in cricket than in football, and thus I suspect the background buzz may have had a more significant impact on the IPL as a sporting contest (as opposed to its contribution to the crowd experience) than the same level of noise does at the World Cup.

Let's hope the buzz dies down, in every sense.

jake fisher said...

What utter nonsense that banning it is somehow racist. None of the complaints have anything to do with race. It simply ruins the atmosphere, and annoys the hell out of the players, and TV viewers.

FIFA is run by a bunch of fools. How could they even imagine that people would accept that noise?

Taryn Norman said...

I can't stand that darn noise since I have found the perfect t-shirt to wear while I am out and about all the soccer hussle, the t-shirt is actually called Vuvuzero :) and it gives me some great reactions!!

I wish we had something other than the vuvuzela - I dont think it reflects our culture AT ALL

Anonymous said...

Well, although I like this site very much, this time I will be on the totally disagreeing side.
I thought Ross' reaction to 2:48 (2:47 ?) was way over the top and (surprisingly) strident and highfalutin. Not his usual style. I definitely don't think Ross is in possession of the Balanced and Impartial Way to think about the vuvuzela, neither are all the other posters that express the same view as him, which is neither all that balanced, just highly personal and subjective.

I, for one, who have only watched a few Cup games on TV, find the beehive sound slightly amusing. To me it colors the ambiance in a way like no other (normal football) match sound would. It reminds me of the joy that children have when they make a lot of noise (with horns or any other gadget that can be used as a percussion instrument). And I don't mean to infantilize the vuvuzela crowds. It does create a type of carnival atmosphere, with the most required elements: energy and noise. Plus, it is totally colorful and fun in its visual aspect. Where is a normal person allowed to blow their horn to their hearts' content as an adult?

Compare the vuvuzela with the traditional (?) Asian protocol for celebrating, where they get up rigidly from their seats and wave little flags, but don't jump up and down, scream, etc. Each culture has their style. Let the Asians do their flag thing and the SAns their horn thing. The vuvuzela definitely has a SAn cultural stamp on it, which I like. And the vuvuzela background noise doesn't seem that loud to me on TV.

I imagine it must be a lot worst in loco. I'm sure I would hate it if I had to be submersed for 2 hours in that noise, if, in the stadium, it is twenty times louder than what we hear through the telly. But I also hate (most) rock music (it's a joke to even call it music). And hard rock or heavy metal is, at least, just as crude and nasty and stupid in terms of an unpleasant noise than any vuvuzela.

So yeah, I agree with 2:48. There are a lot of loud and unpleasant noises in my culture that other people adore. And, really, I would be curious to know what percentage of people who are complaining about the vuvuzela actually like heavy metal. Their complaining then becomes ridiculous.

Having said all that, I would be in favor of banning any noise that seriously interferes with the players' ability to communicate with each other. This seriously impairs the sport.

Finally, although soccer is a very fun game to play, you have to have just a few neurons working to want to watch this turtle-paced, never scoring sport in the first place, so the main problem isn't in the least with the SA horn. (;-) jab jab!)

Alessandra

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Alessandra

Thanks for the comment.

Re the "high-falutin" comment, with respect, you're in no position to comment on a debate over racial/cultural accusations in SA,unless you're here and experience that argument every single day, which frankly, is a disgrace. And it angers me tremendously.

I'm not sure if you're deliberately being antagonistic in your comment, or stirring with comments about "turtle-paced" sport, but anyway, the bulk of your argument is very sound, but I'm bemused that you think you're agreeing with the 2:48 poster. You're not.

As for being 'impartial', what gave you the idea that I was impartial? I said in the post that I didn't enjoy the vuvuzela noise. That's hardly impartial. And as for introducing cultural/racial arguments, can you not see that Anonymous at 2:48 is differing from you? You've actually worded your position on culture very well, and your views are balanced (but also not impartial, I'll point out). His/hers are not, they're openly racist and accusatory, and that I will not stand for. So if my response seems unlike what you've seen on this site before, it's because that is the first comment I can think of that has introduced that kind of nonsensical debate.

No one who commented here is impartial. But they're all well reasoned positioned, and that's great. But to infer jealousy of the "mother race" of the human race on earth? Over a sound on TV? NOt welcome here, it won't ever be.

Ross

Anonymous said...

Hi Ross,
Thanks for your explanation. I understand a bit better now what
got you upset re the 2:48 comment.

You are right about me not being in SA and not knowing how deep running race tensions or problems are experienced on a daily basis there. (Although I know a lot about it from other countries where I have lived, and there is no "black and white" way to interpret race conflicts (and "whites" and "blacks" - pun intended), it's very complex.

And then, we are very much influenced by personal experience, which pushes our emotions and interpretations in one direction or another regarding such comments and issues.

When I read 2:48, my interpretation of the "mother race" sentence was that its author was someone who is probably black trying to frame their race in a very positive light (life giving and originating), and not as it has often been portrayed, as bad or trashy. Really, I didn't see anything more than that, and so I don't see a problem with it. And the "don't be jealous" didn't even stir any emotion in me, I basically think it's inane. That was my frame of mind when reading 2:48. That's why your reaction seemed overly intense to me.

Nevertheless I can certainly understand that these same comments can have different meanings if interpreted from very different types of local and/or personal experiences, all are very different than mine.

Best regards,
Alessandra

Mikhail said...

I and my friend wrote a small Windows App (MuteVuvuzela) that filters the Vuvuzelas noise. Of course it can be used with a TV or DVD. http://www.mutevuvuzela.com

Mark said...

Hi Ross,

Love the topics on your site – they certainly stir up heated debate! Et tu, Vuvu?

Probably because vuvuzelas are a lot like smoking in that the annoyance is largely on the side of those hearing the noise rather than making it, people tend to take the issue very personally. It quickly degenerates to schoolboy level where one side demands the right to blow their horns and the other demands the right to NOT be sonically assaulted. Ironically, there is one extremely important topic lost in all this ‘emotional noise’. Buried in their personal crusades, people seem to have forgotten about the impact on the players and the game.

This is a site based on science so it is a relief to be able to return to tangibles that can be proved in a laboratory. Regardless of what anyone feels about watching the game, the cacophony of noise is having a negative effect on the soccer. We are watching the best players in the world, so they are adjusting admirably, but the noise is preventing them from playing as well as they can. The reason is simple. In any ball sport, and indeed in most sports, the ability to hear is vitally important. Important cues about the speed, spin and flight of the ball are obtained from hearing the ball strike of either team mates or opponents. Take these cues away or severely restrict them, and it impacts negatively on performance. The new Jabulani ball is a handful, or is that a footful, but add the handicap of not being able to properly hear it being struck and it explains the many missed passes and the players not reacting appropriately to the movements of the ball. Dare I say it, but it may also partially explain the unfortunate Green’s blunder.

So regardless of which side of the fence you are on and what ‘atmosphere’ the spectators are experiencing, the vuvuzelas are undoubtedly reducing the quality of the skills we are seeing. Obviously, there is more to sport and soccer than merely skill, and handicapping players or contestants often leads to exciting and unpredictable results, so this is not to say that we won’t see good contests. However, it does mean that we won’t see players performing to their maximum potential. And of course, this plays right into the hands of the hosts because reducing the skills of all contestants plays right into the hands of those on the lower ends of the soccer scale.