IT was Jamie Carragher, not Sepp Blatter who finally ended the predictable debate about the Vuvuzela’s role at what has so far been a near-perfect World Cup in South Africa.
Liverpool’s homegrown hero laughed: “Anybody who’s been to Anfield knows I make more noise than any African football horn!”
With calls for a ban coming thick and fast from foreign journalists, FIFA president Blatter twittered: “To answer all your messages re the Vuvuzelas. I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?”
I’ve just replied to Blatter, saying: “Too right, what would you rather hear, the coarse swearing from the fans at an everyday Premier League match in England?”
But Carragher’s comments take the biscuit. The Vuvuzela thing is a side issue, a distraction... but a vital part of South Africa football culture over the past decade.
The plastic football horn, based on the traditional curled Kudu antelope horn used by rural Africans to summon their tribe, first came to prominence in the local PSL in 2001. My friend Kevin McCallum on the Johannesburg Star suggests the first Vuvuzela was a beer siphon, and who am I to argue with local knowledge?
Since then, marketing and fan campaigns have seen them grow to become an integral and affordable part of what South Africans do when the go to football.
At Polokwane yesterday, the puffing cheeks went quiet for the anthems. And though it was often difficult to chat to the two knowledgeable lads next to me in block 134 of the East Stand, they lent that African sound to a game between Algeria and Slovenia which, to be honest, lacked any real magic though 33,000 made the long trip to the far north.
Carragher, a half-time substitute in England’s 1-1 draw with the USA on Saturday, adds: “I didn’t notice the Vuvuzelas too much when I came on but I think you notice it more when you are watching.
“I know you hear them on TV because my kids have been on the phone asking for them, so I’ve got two of them in my bag already to take home.”
It would be good to hear the fans from the 32 nations singing their traditional songs – in South Africa’s friendly against Denmark 10 days ago, the fans did stop at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium to sing before the game, using the colourful plastic tubes as a visual rather than audio device, as they waved them in unison.
Perhaps we could have the big screens in the stadiums asking for a ten minute Vuvuzela break to allow singing. But either way, it’s better than listening to the comments and oaths from football fans which so often upset the women and youngsters in the crowd.
South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune complained after their opening draw against Mexico at Soccer City: “There weren’t enough Vuvuzelas. We need more,” while Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena of Portsmouth told TalentNation.com’s Shout4 campaign: “Come and support South Africa and bring your vuvuzela come on and support Bafana. You've seen me shouting for South Africa, now it's your turn and blow your Vuvuzelas.”
What should really be upsetting fans here is the Jabulani ball. England and Algeria both conceded bizarre goals in their opening games and nearly every free-kick and corner has flown long and high, particularly at altitude.
Apparently they were trialled successfully in Germany. But I know for a fact Gavin Hunt, South Africa’s most successful club coach with three consecutive PSL title at Supersport United, tried them for six months here. He complained to Gavin Cowley, the former rugby and cricketer in charge of the uniquely South Africa ball. Hunt told me: “They’re okay at sea level, but at altitude they fly around too much. We need the heavier Mitre ball because of the thin air up here on the Highveld.”
Sadly, it’s too late to change the ball. And far too late to silence the Vuvuzela. Not to mention morally reprehensible. Get ear-plugs.
If a light ball and loud horn are the only real problems so far, South Africa has done rather well for a nation they said couldn’t host a World Cup successfully.
The first three days saw six magnificent stadiums, six perfect pitches, six good crowds (four sell-outs) featuring seven games and 12 goals. The opening group games are always cautious. Nobody wants to lose that first outing.
But generally, South Africa should sit back and await an apology from those who said we would, by now, be sat in a blood bath being bitten by deadly snakes and mugged by terrible tsotsis. It hasn’t happened. There are still tickets. There are still flights. And very reasonable places to stay.
Get here now. You may sit in a bit of traffic after games, but have you ever tried getting out of Wembley after a big game?
What interests me is we’ve seen three red cards but no great debate on refereeing. I said the Vuvuzela would be the first big talking point. The refs are next.
Neal Collins (nealcol on Twitter) is in South Africa to promote his first novel A GAME APART. For more information see www.nealcollins.co.uk. And if you don’t want to see Steven Gerrard’s opening goal for England watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg_8y7ylc5Q. It’s hilarious! And they said Africa would mess things up at this World Cup.