Post-colonialism, the World Cup and the Vuvuzela

June 26, 2010


There I was sitting in a pub at the Stanstead airport, on Friday, watching the first world cup match with South Africa as the host team. The match was so boring I do not remember who the opposing side might have been. I do however remember the two young, pretty South African – and white – women sitting at the same table. When the match heated up with South Africa scoring, they pulled out these two plastic, colourful cones (Traffic cones? In a pub? At the airport? Inside a purse? Odd! I thought). Up until then I had not paid any attention to this until then, unknown as an instrument of cultural expression. One of the two lassies blew the horn straight into my ear. Normally, I suffer fools (somewhat) gladly, especially when it is during the World Cup. However this time I knew that I had to move away from the line of fire from this very, very, very loud instrument of pain. I did not then appreciate how this plastic cone was going to become a racist, anti-racist tug-of-war.
A couple of days later – today – however, I read the local paper and came upon an article by Juha Tuuna (juha.tuuna@sss.fi) in which he froths at the mouth and flagellates all those who find the vuvuzela annoying to the point of distraction. He calls them football colonialists (Finnish: futiskolonismia).

Normally, on a warm summer day, I would pass over the silliness (or is that idiocy?) about which summer journalists froth. It is a fact that the vuvuzela is annoying and very very loud, but this is a secondary to the issue at hand. He, Juha, throws up the red herring that this damned thing is part of African culture therefore we better keep mum. Gosh, no, we would not want to offend Africans, brown, white and especially black-skinned. I do not mind flagellation, if it is self-inflicted but please, white-boy, do not flagellate me for not accepting trite nonsense and, well er, lies about a noisy piece of plastic. The vuvuzela is not an African cultural trophy not unless Africans, or those at football matches, have been making plastic trumpets since the white-devil set his foot on the continent. It is, simply put, a piece of extruded plastic which some clever clogs started selling to fans – of every colour and many nations – and is guffawing, at the noise being generated with and about the vuvuzela –  all the way to the bank. I say it once again, just in case I have not yet stated it clearly enough: The vuvuzela is not a cultural icon but rather a very annoying, loud, very very loud, piece of plastic which is polluting our environment with noise and when falls into the pit of historical mad and trite artefacts –  as surely as the hula-hoop was – it will end up as nothing more than plastic detritus, in the south Pacific’s floating Plastic ocean.

Aside: While I am using the word African, readers should be reminded that Africa is a big place with thousand of cultural identities. Something like Europe! Let me put it this way- is a Finn and Frenchman? Or to put it another way: How much culture does a Bantu businessman sitting in Maputo share with an Ifo tribesman sitting in the Congo delta? Other than skin colour (and even that is not certain)?

Youngest son and I sat in the telly room watching the second match and I mentioned, casually, that a gargantuan was bee trying to get out of the house via the upstairs bedroom window. I was half-joking but then he pointed out the din was coming from the television box. It was constant and continuous. I finally had to turn the sound off. We both concluded that football without sound is boring so I turned it back on gritted our collective teeth.

An odd ball

While we were trying to maintain the dignity in diehard footie fans, we fell into a polite dialogue about other important football matters. The football, that is the Jabulani, does not seem to bounce true. “The physics is wrong. ! I tried to sound erudite. “It bounces and falls when it is not suppose to do either, and at the same time. And it is too sensitive. A chip will take it to the Nairobi.” Obviously, I was engaged in a bit of hyperbole, though not by much. I clearly remember balls doing funny things in previous World Cups but it was the kicker who was making it twirl in gravity-defying spins. Now it seems that the ball itself is doing all the twirling and spinning. I say, get rid of it and bring back the old pigskin, sewn and not perfectly round.

The sad Iberians and boring Anglos

Stuffing the Spaniards was carried out by the treacherous Swiss side. In Lisbon some years back it was the Greeks. Now it is the swish swatch-carrying Swiss. Is there nothing sacred? Portugal did a little better by not losing. Small comfort. Its opposition probably sported the best looking kits.
The England side proved to be supremely capable of boring with the best of them. Yawn!

The best match so far

It happened last night. The Uruguay side played well and deserved to win. I think that the red card to goalminder Khune was payback for the ugly tackles which the South African side had been subjecting Uruguay players.
So would suggest that the Germany-Australia was the best match to date. Well yes, up to a point. Germany did not encounter any great resistance. It shall have to prove itself against better sides.


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