Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 70-The Humble Vuvuzela (2010)

Some World Cups have left an indelible mark on the psyche of some fans through music for an iconic gesture or moment. There’s the samba beat during Brazil games, that insufferable brass band during England games or Arabic instruments played during games in the Middle East that many Socceroos fans have come accustomed to since Australia joined the AFC.

South Africa though will no doubt be remembered by most for one thing, the humble vuvuzela. The ‘instrument’ harks back to pre-colonial times in Africa and was used to summon people to community meetings and normally made from wood or other material. In recent times many (including a church) have claimed to be the inventors of the instrument but none have had any concrete evidence.

Despite also being used to a degree in Brazil and the USA from the 60’s it is mainly known for its connection to South African football as a tradition much like the makarapa helmets. The modern plastic instrument normally emitted a loud monotone drone when sounded like a swarm of bees when used in their thousands and would be annoying to the uninitiated.

With FIFA awarding South Africa the World Cup the question would be what to do with the vuvuzela. FIFA had considered banning the instrument following the Confederations Cup after TV audiences worldwide along with some players and officials complained about the noise. FIFA also thought that they could’ve been used as weapons.

Sepp Blatter dug his heels in though and denied to protesters claiming that the instrument was what would made the World Cup in South Africa and unique and FIFA would not ‘Europeanise’ the event. A noble gesture for tradition from a morally bankrupt man.

During the 2010 tournament the instrument became part of popular culture with the public divided on its worth worldwide. Most of those attending the games loved the atmosphere they generated during, before and following the game. They also saw the love the locals had for the instrument and, when used properly, added to the experience. 99% of those watching on television suffered. It was referred to in the urban dictionary as:

“A mind-numbing torture device made of cheap, brightly coloured plastic. It resembles a horn but its pitch cannot be changed.”

This was technically not true. The pitch could be changed by locals who knew who to use the instrument much like an instrument like a didgeridoo. A drunken football fan being the quintessential tourist could probably not change the tone though. There were also moves made by universities and the like to try and remove the noise made by vuvuzelas by ‘notch filtering’ which amplified the commentary and muzzled the vuvuzelas. This was partially successful.

Following the World Cup many other sports move to immediately ban the instrument from their events. Wimbledon (naturally) banned the them along with the 2012 Olympic organisers, some Premier League sides, Yankee Stadium and UEFA which covered all major European football competitions. For the 2014 World Cup a rattling instrument called a caxirola would replace the vuvuzela with the only concern being that the instrument could be used as a weapon.

The vuvuzela was perhaps misunderstood, perhaps misused but unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.


  1. You set me a task with this piece, Dennis. Do I classify it as ‘Almanac Music’? Vuvezela = Music?? Definitely not.
    “Almanac Soccer”? Not a ball kicked in the whole report.

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    Ah, maybe under ‘white noise’ if that’s a category?

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