The World Cup begins on Friday. Between now and then, as time permits, I will speculate about what we might expect from the tournament. But one thing is clear already – this will be he most annoying World Cup in memory.
That’s because fans from the host country – South Africa – will insist on blowing horns throughout the full 90-plus minutes of each and every match. We know this because they did it during the Confederations Cup, a dress-rehearsal for the World Cup that was held in South Africa last summer.
The sound made by the plastic horns is dreadful. It bears some resemblance to that of the shofar – the ram’s horn that Jews blow into to signal the beginning and the end of the high holidays. Mondi Makhanya, former editor-in-chief of the Johannesburg Times, likens the sound to a goat being led to slaughter, which also seems about right. In any event, unless you’re under the age of 12 or so, listening to the sound for 90 minutes detracts from the enjoyment of the match, even if you are only watching on television. In addition, as Makhanya notes, it also drowns out the singing of the crowd, an important ingredient of soccer world wide.
FIFA, the bureaucracy that runs international soccer, professes to have no problem with the hornblowing. It takes the politically correct view that the activity is “a part of South African culture.” Makhanya denies this facile claim, arguing that singing is much more a part of his nation’s culture, given its role in protesting apartheid and the fact that the tradition of singing at soccer matches predates the blowing.
For the sake of South Africa, one hopes that the hornblowing is just a childish indulgence, and not part of the nation’s cultural fabric. But for soccer fans around the world, this obnoxious practice is about to become an unfortunate element of our sense of South Africa and its culture.
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