The Origins of the Vuvuzela

The Vuvzela has recently been the focus of international discussion; it has become the accessory of the 2010 World Cup football tournament in South Africa. But the origin of the loud, lengthy horn is a topic of controversy. Its origin is commonly disputed as it is difficult to determine a point at which the horn was introduced but there are several parties that claim its invention.

The world Vuvuzela is itself disputed as some claim it comes from a Zulu word meaning ‘to make noise’ while others argue that it comes from a township slang phrase meaning ‘shower’. It is unknown whether this origin regards showering people with noise or perhaps using part of a shower as an instrument.

There is some who believe the instrument is a variation of the Kudu horn used in battle and worship by various African tribes. If true, the instrument would date back hundreds or even thousands of years deeply rooted in African culture but so far it is not considered credible as there is no evidence.

Another claim comes from the Nazareth Baptist Church of South African who claims they invented the instrument and it has been used in their worship as a sacred instrument since the turn of the 20th century. Their claim has been disputed as although the horn has been actively used and recognised in South African football for several decades, they only raised the issue early in 2010. They argue that as a sacred instrument used in worship, it should not be allowed to be used in sporting events with no religious relevance. Leaders of the church have threatened legal action against the heads of FIFA to stop fans playing the instrument during matches.

South African football fan Freddie Maake claims to have invented the instrument in 1965 when adapting a bicycle horn, he later crafted a longer version from aluminium which he took to many local games and international events. Maake has pictures of himself dating back to the 1970s to support his claim and he even took it to the 1998 world cup in France. There is no doubt he was using a vuvuzela horn as far back as 1970 but still no hard evidence to support the claim that he invented it. The exact same horn was recorded being used in the 1978 world cup in Argentina, a country Maake had never visited but the instruments directly resemble that of his 1965 aluminium creation.

Ex -professional football player Neil van Schalkwyk saw an opportunity to make money when his company, Masincedane Sports, patented the design of a plastic version of the horn to market to local football fans but he had no idea it would be as popular as it has been. So far, Masincedane Sports has sold over 600,000 vuvuzelas, 100,000 of which were in the first week of the 2010 World Cup.

The infamous loud drone produced by the horn has proved unpopular with many visiting football fans in South Africa and even more watching on television around the world. FIFA officials are yet to enforce any rules on the use of the instrument but FIFA CEO Dr Danny Jordaan stated that «2010 will be the loudest world cup ever; South Africa hopes that the Vuvuzela will be recognised as a unique part of what will be a very special African world cup celebration.» Time will tell if the instruments will be used in other countries but international sales of the vuvuzela are in the millions, with only a handful of clubs and stadiums proposing to ban them at future events.

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