One constant in this past week's FIFA Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament for the World Cup pitting the regional champions against one another, other than the suckitude of the United States, and Coach Bradley's asinine decision to stick with worthless players like Damarcus Beasley is the drone of the Vuvuzela. It has been the subject of much commentary in the soccer mediasphere this week, so to prevent YCS from simply being "Yellow Chair Vinnie" and to put these self-righteous, quasi-racist pricks in their place, I am returning to action.
A vuvuzela is a cheap plastic horn about 3 feet in length, that when blown, creates a sound like an elephant or a swarm of bees. It is a popular part of soccer culture in South Africa.
It's humming has become a source of ire for commentators, players, coaches, and fans during the Confederations Cup, and has led to urgings to ban the instrument for next year's World Cup Finals. And they're all full of shit.
Announcers say that the horns drown out their commentary. First, I would like to direct these announcers to a magnificent invention created in the 19th century. It is called a microphone, and can do magical things for voice amplification. That being said, no. I don't want announcers to know about microphones. ESPN's announcing team during the last World Cup took more away from the broadcast than any horn could ever aspire to. See also: Dave O'Brien. Given the choice between a cheap plastic horn, and ESPN's soccer announcers (with the exception of Derek Rae, and on occasion, Andy Gray), I will take the plastic horn any day.
Fans say that they contribute nothing to atmosphere, and have no place in football. I love when fans talk about what has a place in football culture, because when people say "proper football/soccer" what they usually mean is "the way things are done in some Western European countries." This person is the scourge of the American soccer fan, because he usually retains no connection to the local game, choosing instead to support his favorite EPL Big 4 team on Setanta every week, jerking off to an English flag while downing a pint of Beamish.
The fact is, soccer, just like the way it is played, is supported in different styles all over the world. Even in the MLS, styles range from Chicago's Polish/Italian/Mexican influence
To Columbus Crew's German-style support
to Houston Dynamo's El Battalon, which is heavily populated and influenced by support common in Latin America.
If all you watch is one or two leagues, and a handful of teams, then naturally your worldview of what qualifies as "support" is going to be a tad myopic. While I'm not ready to play the race card just yet, it's certainly a thought. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who usually has his head so far up his own ass he can see the inside of his own neck, is for once, dead on the money here. "It's a local sound and I don't know how possible it is to stop it.I always said when we go to South Africa, it is Africa. It is not Western Europe.It's noisy, it's energy, rhythm, dance, drums. This is Africa. We have to adapt a little."
Spain's Xabi Alonso is also in favor of banning the vuvuzela. "They make it very difficult for the players to communicate with each other and concentrate. They are a distraction and do nothing for the atmosphere." This is the biggest bullshit argument I've heard yet, considering its source for two reasons. First, Xabi Alonso plays his club football for Liverpool, whose home ground; Anfield, is regularly one of the loudest in Europe. Yet no problems communicating and concentrating there.
Pregame at Anfield
During the Game (especially starting at the 0:40 mark)
So the argument that the horns are loud and distracting seems a tad misplaced coming from Alonso. Likewise, Alonso plays his club football on a team whose first team features Brazilian, Spanish, English, Israeli, Italian, Danish, Ukrainian, Swiss, French, Dutch, Scottish, Argentinian, Slovak, Moroccan, and Hungarian players. I have to imagine there's more than a few language barriers on that team. Yet, Alonso apparently has no problem communicating at Anfield. You figure with those barriers removed in South Africa (since presumably every player on the Spanish team speaks Spanish, and the players could at least lip-read simple commands), this should be a non issue.
Also gotta wonder about Alonso. Alonso is from Spain, whose soccer games have been plagued by racist chanting at African players (including tossing bananas on to the field at some stadiums). I wonder if that "contributes to atmosphere."
As for the coaches who don't like the sound of the vuvuzela, I think they largely overestimate the importance of their own job. 95% of a soccer manager's job is in preparing the team; once they're out on the pitch, the manager's influence is largely limited to substitutions and half-time adjustments. So unless the vuvuzela is blowing in their ear while they are selecting the team or during training sessions, their impact on a coach's performance would appear to be minimal at best.
So next year, expect the vuvuzelas to be back. Now if only we could do something about the United States team's chronic sucking...