Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 World Cup- vuvuzela is not all about noise making

 link here
Is it that troublesome; home made, a meter tall according to Macmillan Dictionary, born in the tribe of trumpets, an unruly noise maker, attractive in vibrant orange, yellow and green, wide mouthed, trade marked as South Africa's soccer identity and a talking-point now to the soccer fanatics in South Africa and elsewhere, I am talking about the vuvuzelas.  

Ever since I came to South Africa, those queer things were there. Their piercing noise was deafening while watching soccer on the TV.  There was hardly any music in their drone; thousands of spectators blew them giving out simply a harsh rhythm. In the stadium it  reverberated like a noise tsunami marking the South African soccer identity and festivity. No doubt the spectators enjoyed it to the bone.  
 link here

In the 90s they were hardly known beyond the local fans.

But by 2010 or even earlier, it rose to international fame. South Africans were determined to transform 2010 Soccer to something of an African phenomenon.  Without shying away from entertaining  guests and soccer spectators with their own merchandise, however queer it appeared to others, they embarked on giving a face lift to the game with clear cultural and economic motives. Vuvuzela seems to be their pilot scheme in that.  Now it seems that the global soccer is borrowing a leaf out of its success. 

No wonder, it has become the talking-point to so many people and the media alike all over the world.  Many criticisms leveled against the noise-maker that needs a 'practiced combination of lip and lung action' to bring into action are unchallengeable.

That their noise makes communication between coaches and players on the ground problematic and that it dominates the T.V broadcasts are a few among them. With a loudness of 127 decibels, 130 for a jet engine, it causes serious sound pollution. 

According to  Jaspal Singh , lecturer in Laws at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar,  '60 decibels is the level of normal talk: 90-95 decibels may cause irreversible changes in the automatic nervous system' 

 I have seen coaches on the sideline contorting their faces to shout out tips to players.  That those tips  do not reach them is a cause for concern. The problem is very severe to the guest teams, who are not used to its drone.  

South Africa in my understanding is an extremely hospitable country; it would never want to displease its guests.

My family and friends from Kerala also complained to me over the phone that they are not able to hear anything clearly on the T.V because of the drone in the background.

B.B.C quotes former England captain Bryan Robson, now

manager of Thailand soccer team: "with that noise they (South Africans) could have an advantage in the World Cup,". 

However, after South Africa's terrible loss to Uruguay(0-3) on 16 June at Pretoria one doubts as to what that advantage might be.

Fifa chairman Sepp Blatter was initially in favour of banning the noise instrument from the 2010 world cup, but later he was dissuaded from taking that decision by the South African Football Association. 

What is its history?

History of vuvzlea does not seem to be certain. 

According to the MacMillan Dictionary, one version links it  to the Kudu horn a 'tribal instrument used to summon villagers to meetings'.  Initially made of tin, it became famous when South African Soccer fans added it into their games accessories in the 1990s.  Its destiny took a magnificent turn when Masincedane Sport, a South African-based company started mass producing its new generation plastic version in bright red, green and yellow in 2001

According to Daily FinanceNeil van Schalkwyk, who co-owns Masincedane Sports, created the vuvuzela, pronounced as Vu-vu-ZEl-uh. He defines its meaning as 'to sprinkle you, to shower you with noise'.  He hopes that the company would generate $2.6 million through the sale of the instrument during the 2010 World Cup. The company also claims to have sold 1,5 million vuvuzeals in Europe since October last year.

There is more; van Schalkwyk's company has partnered with Uthango Social Investments in South Africa to 'manufacture and sell ear plugs at park and rides for noise protection'.  It employs 70 people in Cape Town and '120 vendors around stadiums and fan parks'.

China has already scooped out a major part of the vuvzela business. Its manufacturers are struggling to cope with the on-line demand for the trumpet.  The Chinese made vuvuzelas cost much less, only  one third of the South Arican price which stands at R70.  The china version is shorter too.

From the look of things, vuvzela is now on its way to taking on the world on a noise mission. According to, van Schalkwyk has partnered with a German company to produce vuvuzelas and the United Kingdom too is interested in it.

The craze is all over.  According to June 18 Business News, "A vuvuzela was confiscated in New York this week.  In Britain grocery store chain Sainsbury's said it had sold 43,000 vuvuzelas at the cost of 2 pounds each - at a rate of one every two minutes".

Russians and Brazilians have trying to make 'cooperation deals to get the authentic vuvuzelas" in their countries.  Brazil is hosting world cup 2014.

In short, vuvuzlea is not all about sound making. It has a sound economic story behind it. World Cup is a billion Dollar investment in South Africa and elsewhere; trickling down its benefits to the masses is a market economy principle.

 Neil van Schalkwyk -the man behind the vuvuzela

According to Neil van Schalkwyk, the 37 year old South African, born in Cape Town, was a football player himself.  Fifteen years ago, as a defender to his team, Santos Cape Town Youth, he made a tying score against the opponent, Battswood. That game fired in him the idea of inventing a noise maker similar to the one he saw among the crowd being blown, 'a long, homemade, tin trumpet'.

With the idea conceived there, working in a plastic factory he 'figured there had to be some way to produce a horn with a similarly blaring sound'. 

After spending many sleepless nights, he slowly managed to give the  ultimate expression to his dream which turned out to be the most bothering headache to some and  all smiles to some others in the Fifa Soccer World Cup 2010. 

Initially, 'he could not trade mark the horn as itself', he says,"because a trumpet is a trumpet and has been around for centuries". Hence his company Masincedane Sport "trade mark protected the name 'vuvuzela'", which he defined "to sprinkle you, to shower you with nose".

His company started with 500 vuvzelas in 2001, a 'year later he caught a break when a company bought 20,000 as a promotion'. That was the beginning. Now demand for vuvuzelas is growing globally. 

His philosophical rationale to vuvuzela in South Africa is "we got 11 different languages... and certain songs are not understood by everyone...(t)here is one language they do understand and is the vuvuzela".

In South Africa his support spreads across the racial spectrum.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an avid supporter of him.

Now, the industry is a 50 million rand worth business in South Africa.


Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 world cup news-2

2010 world cup is progressing well in South Africa. To see the match scores  so far click here .  

The outcome of the inaugural match of South Africa vs. Mexico, a 1-1 draw, was a glorious moment in the history of South Africa and its national team Bafana Bafana.

Bafana Bafana's all the time failure in the last two years that caused its two head coaches to resign from their jobs, had caused people to doubt  its ability to take the nation through the world cup 2010. Not long after the 2010 world cup award to South Africa at the World Trade Centre in Zurich in 2006, Carlos Alberto Parreira was hired as head coach to build up Bafana for 2010 on a monthly salary of US $ 227, 000 (approx. INR.10,215,000). Parreira who coached his national Brazilian team had taken it to victory in 1994 world cap.

In April 2008, after a series of non-performance by Bafana he had to leave for Brazil to take care of his ill wife. His post was soon filled by Joel Santhana, another Brazilian coach. 

In October 2009, Parriera returned to his old post he left an year ago, when Santana resigned from his job after another series of losses to South Africa in its build up to 2010.  

Parriere took the national team to undergo a sophisticated one month training that lasted from March to April 2010 in the state-of-the-art Traffic Sports Training Centre outside Sao Paulo in Brazil, known as Desportivo Brazil. 

At the end of the training at the center, which is linked to Manchester United and clubs in Brazil and the United States, the team emerged with a new found vigour and confidence.
By11 June 2010, they were all things in the past. In the afternoon of that day when Bafana Bafana emerged out into the soccer city stadium, Johannesburg, holding hands with little boys and girls in red and yellow, to the piercing din of vuvzealas blown by the ninety five thousand capacity spectators, to play against Mexico, the nation held its breath not in doubt but in hope and unity.

The calabash stadium looked mellowed in the yellow, the colour of the bafana bafana jersy worn by its supporters.  The Mexican red was vibrant too but it drowned in the yellow shine.  

During the match and its buildup that reached fever pitch at least since a month ago, in everything the supporters wore, carried and performed-the t-shirt, jersy, shawl, cap, spectacles, head gear, hair, face mask, face paint, vuvuzela, singing, dancing, drinking and all forms of merrymaking- there was an ambitious and dedicated uniformity, as a sign of their undivided support to their team.  It was amazing how all colour and races merged into one in that support.  Their four years' hard work culminated in showcasing before the rest of the world their 1GOAL to muffle the doom sayers. Though their team did not win what Bafana Bafana achieved did their nation proud. 

The excitement of the 2010 opening however was marred by the absence of former president Mr. Mandela due to loosing one of his great grand daughter, 13 year old Zenani. The car in which she was returning home from the world cup's opening concert the previous night at the Orlando stadium, Soweto, crashed, killing her. One family member according to the news papers' report was arrested for drunken driving.  

Loosing lives of South Africans on their roads to the same offence is on the increase.  Unless individuals take responsibility to their own life and wellbeing there is very little a nation can do to safe guard its citizens from such tragic deaths. 

Together with the nation, me and my family express our deepest condolences to the Mandela family.

Will continue....


Friday, June 11, 2010

World cup 2010 in South Africa - The success of Humanity

The Soccer World cup in waiting
"The Cup That Grips
The World." Sports Illustrated,
1974. Image courtesy of
Don't ever imagine that I am a Soccer fan and for that matter a fan of any game. However, the soccer World Cup 2010 getting kicked off in few hours at the Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg means many things more than a Soccer meet.  Ban Ki-moon, the U.N Secretary general qualified it as the 'success of humanity'. The world cup theme is One Goal, Education for all.

Soccer City Stadium at Johannesburg For more pictures

A flash back

 When Nelson Mandela the iconic anti-apartheid figure of South Africa was released from his 27 years of imprisonment we (myself, my husband and our two daughters Priya and Prabha) were at Alice, an inner city in the Ciskei, a Black homeland created to restrict the Black people within a confined geography in the apartheid South Africa.  

It was on the 2nd of February 1990.  Not long after Klerk, the White apartheid president had entered his office, he decided to release Mandela not without making behind the door agreement on to what course the new inclusive democratic South Africa would take.

Fire crackers, war songs, dancing and the ululation of joy of a long oppressed people burst into the otherwise peaceful air of Alice, which made us wonder what it was until our next door neighbour clarified, 'Nelson Mandela is released'. Arrived only a few weeks ago in the city our TV aerial had not been coordinated to receive the T.V signals so we had missed the news.

T.V signals were an unfamiliar thing to us then, for none of the places in Africa we stayed in, in the previous years had no such facility.  We used the TV only for watching films. 

Then came the T.V signals, the freedom and the democracy and the cricket. Together with the oppressed South Africans we were also celebrating. 

Euphoria reached fever pitch for South Africans, when their cricket team touched the Indian soil in 1991for its first official international tour, that ended their twenty years of suspension from sports since 1970. 

It was appropriate that their isolation was broken in India since India was the key influence in the 1970 sanctions against South Africa.  Ironically India still keeps her apartheid as a high level secret. 

Democracy in a transformed South Africa

South Africa's transformation into democracy was not a victory won by its liberation defeating the apartheid regime, instead an outcome negotiated among its political stake holders. The liberation army's war though rightly on a moral crusade failed to rip apart the warring machinery of apartheid.   
Rolled out in 1994, after a mammoth multi-party negotiation at the Kempton Park, the Constitution of South Africa was a political settlement towards this transformation.  To redress its atrocious past and to attain  reconciliation in the present to build the future was constituted another body the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Chaired by the most revered Desmond Tutu, the then Anglican Archbishop, the TRC seemingly did everything within its capacity to attain its objectives- granting amnesty to perpetrators being the key among them.  However it is criticized to have achieved less in terms of the victims's transformation. As a court-like 'restorative justice' body against a 'retributive justice' body it already had compromised on the victims' right to seek retribution and justice. The perpetrators either applied for  amnesty and got it and the victims had to forgive them. There are concerns whether its was reconciliation or sacrifice that the victims really achieved in the end. 

But what was unique in the South African transformation?

Anybody would agree, South Africa was unique in its transformation in the sense that its warring groups attained better reconciliation relative to other countries in similar situation.

Its uniqueness lies, seemingly not in the TRC's 'original purpose to provide amnesties – but in its by-product, the victims’ hearings'.  The hearing afforded them the opportunity to come face to face with the perpetrators to find closure to their inner wounds through revealing them out. 'Revealing was healing' was the slogan. The entire nation took part in the amnesty process in one way or the other -the victims and the perpetrators through direct contact- and the rest through the wide media coverage it was afforded.

About the publics' reaction to the coverage Gillian Slovo a victim herself-her mother Ruth First was assassinated by a parcel bomb sent to her in Mozambique by the South African security- and the daughter of Joe Slovo the iconic Communist Party leader of South Africa wrote:  'There were those who told me of driving with the radio on, and of being so affected by what they heard that they had to stop their cars and vomit. But there were also those who turned off their radios, and their televisions, and spoke of other things.'

Another remarkable achievement of the TRC was saving the country's history from being negated it tomorrow. 

Gullian Slovo continues:
 'History was made by the TRC – not just that a nation participated in this exercise – but also literally because one of the aims of the TRC was to re-write the history of South Africa so that future generations could never say, as some have managed to do about the holocaust: oh, no – it didn’t really happen'

Nelson Mandela only completed his first term of office as president of South Africa and then came Thabo Mbeki who ruled for two terms and the current president is Jacob Zuma.

What does the world cup mean to South Africa and to the rest of the developing nations

Currently, among the previously disadvantaged, in South Africa, include the majority among the Blacks, a section of the Indians and the Colourds. Transformation did not offer them tangible developments. When coupled with it the draw back in education and skill development they are a vulnerable group. Their education, employment, and wellbeing is a national priority. Economic investments in the scale of World Cup and other projects can earn them employment and education.

On the other hand, South Africa has a unique potential in its  infrastructure.  Its national roads, hospitality, health, safety, security, ports, buildings, monuments, national parks, electricity generation, beaches, wine gardens and nature are of world class. Its people are warm, loving, caring, colourful and entertaining.  Yet its chance to compete with the rest of the world is sometimes affected by the mythical perception that Africa cannot be trusted with certain important tasks. Seemingly other developing nations are also facing the same problem.

By granting the 19th Soccer world cup to South Africa, FIFA dispelled that myth. And now the country's readiness to take on the world proves FIFA.  It is in this context that Ban Ki-moon qualified the event as the success of humanity.   

Me, and my family are extremely excited to live in this country at this momentous time to witness its jubilation and joy. We feel it, it is here.  We wish the South African soccer team all the best. We believe in them; they can do it.

Here is the fixture for the 2010 World cup.

Will continue.....