Vuvuzela is no icon of African soccer
But on the receiving end, it is an awful curse, one that threatens to be the indelible memory of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when football folk reflect on the tournament in decades to come.
The toneless noise is irritating in the least, permanently annoying and now obviously detracts from one of the great parts of a major soccer spectacle, the singing of fans in the stands.
That much was in evidence on Monday afternoon when Japan beat Cameroon. There was a great effort to raise their voices above the din of the vuvuzela by the Blue Samari fans, once their team had taken a surprise lead against, but they soon gave up, drowned by the relentless shrill blasts on the pointless plastic trumpet.
There are suggestions it might be banned. FIFA are increasingly concerned and the South African organizers now get the point about its destructive nature rater than it being a novel addition to the game.
But no one dare ban it yet, for fear of local public backlash, such is the hole the top officials have dug for themselves.
To the few who have by now not heard of the thing by now, the vuvuzela is an alleged musical instrument blown incessantly at soccer games in South Africa. For the last five years that is, since some enterprising importer shipped in a whole load from China and they became instantly popular. They were given a local Zulu name and quickly jumped into the local footballing lexicon.
Load of nonsense
In fact, it is claimed now to be an indelible part of South African football culture although this is a complete load of nonsense.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter must take the majority of the blame. It was he who gave the instrument a seal of approval at a time when he could just as easily have banned it. But because he was seeking to rise his populist stock he was quick to jump onto a silly bandwagon of nationalism that swelled up when it was first suggested the instrument be banned because it was irritating foreign television viewers.
During last year's Confederations Cup, there were complaints from many European television viewers about the tuneless din in the background as they watched coverage of the two-week warm-up tournament played in South Africa.
So when a Dutch journalist questioned Blatter about this last June, it raised the hackles of the local media. Their attitude was: 'Who is this Johnny Foreigner to tell me what I can blow or not?' Blatter picked up on the sentiment and went with the locals, quick to pontificate on how it was wrong to interfere with local custom and that South African fans had been blowing vuvuzela for years and should be allowed to continue, etc, etc. He beamed as the locals gave him a noisy round of applause.
The issue of the vuvuzela has come up repeatedly since and Blatter has each time used it as a chance to reinforce his self-made image as the only man with Africa's interests truly to heart.
Now he can't exactly suddenly ban the instrument or he will look foolish.
The vuvuzela is no icon of African football. It is a plastic trumpet from China imported first not that long ago and that is now a curse. Problem is, there are no footballing bigwigs brave enough to exorcise it.
About the Author
Mark Gleeson lives in Cape Town and is a world-renowned authority on African soccer, having spent the last 25 years writing about the sport. He was honoured for his services to the game on the continent with a Merit Award from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2008. He has won numerous journalism awards in his native South Africa, where he currently also works for satellite TV station SuperSport as a match commentator. He also writes extensively on both South African and African soccer.