Vuvuzela, the Annoying Football Horn

Explore the origin of the vuvuzela, its health risks, and what FIFA has done about it.

A football fan blowing the vuvuzela during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

The horns that create bee-like sounds, a common background for the football games during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, are called vuvuzelas. Pronounced as “voo-voo-ze-la”, this instrument produces a b-flat note which, individually, resembles the sound of an elephant.

The vuvuzela is typically one meter long and made of plastic. Its cheap cost and ease of use is attributed for its popularity. Although some stadium fans find its tune enjoyable, many perceive it as annoying and consider the vuvuzela more as a noise-maker than a musical instrument, especially those who watch football games through TV broadcast.

Where did the vuvuzela originate?Freddie Maake, the man who claims as the inventor of the vuvuzela

There are many disputes with regards to the origin of the vuvuzela. The most common is that it was derived from the kudu, an African instrument made from the horn of an antelope of the same name. The kudu horn has been traditionally used by some African tribes to summon members into gatherings.

Another claim to its origin is by South African football fan Freddie Maake, who says that he invented the football horn in 1965. He claims that he got the idea when he was given a bicycle horn by his brother and shows pictorial evidence that he has been using the vuvuzela since 1970, decades before it became popular. He likewise claims the coinage of the word “vuvuzela”, which according to him means “welcome”, “unite”, and “celebrate” in Zulu.

Other claims were made by a South African church, which said that it began using the vuvuzela at the beginning of the 20th Century for healing sick people. Similarly, Neil van Schalkwyk, a South African businessman who used to play semi-professional football, also claims that he invented the vuvuzela in 1999. He is currently a co-owner of a company that manufactures and sells vuvuzelas.

The World Cup and vuvuzela ban


Many petitions were made to ban the vuvuzela prior to the 2010 World Cup. Some coaches and players found its bee-like sound both annoying and distracting (see video). Many television viewers are also against the football horn because it drowns other sounds in the game like commentating and the vocal cheering of stadium fans.

Some FIFA officials also proposed ban on the football horn because some variants of it can be used as a weapon by hooligans. They also want to prevent some manufacturers from capitalizing on the association of the vuvuzela to the World Cup, who promote that product as an icon of the tournament in order to rip big sales.

The vuvuzela also pose health risks, including permanent ear damage and the transmission of flu and cold germs. However, FIFA president Sepp Blatter did not put a ban on the vuvuzelas during the World Cup in respect to South African tradition.

At present, several Premier League clubs ban the vuvuzela for health and other risks associated with it. Among the English football teams that were first to take action against the trumpet are Tottenham, West Ham, Manchester United, Fulham, Everton, Birmingham, and Arsenal.