It's called the vuvuzela (pronounced vu-vu-ZEL-uh) and it has swarmed into the spotlight of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The tournament kicked off a few days ago, introducing the world to a plastic horn capable of reaching 127 decibels.
Neil van Schalkwyk of Masincedane Sport says he developed a plastic version of the traditional South African Kudu horn, and in 2001 the South African company began mass production. He hopes to generate sales of up to $2.6 million during the World Cup.
However, many players, coaches and fans of the sport are not so sanguine. Calling it a distraction, an unfair advantage for the home team, annoying, or just plain dangerous, many have called for a ban of the horn, while claiming it will damage the sport.
Even some fans watching the games on television have complained, although it hasn't hurt the viewership: So far, ratings for the 2010 World Cup are record setting. According to Nielsen Co., Saturday's US vs. England match was the most-watched U.S. men's national team soccer telecast since 1994.
A Booming Opportunity
Most observers agree that a ban on the instrument is unlikely. As FIFA president Sepp Blatter wrote on a website, "I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country."
If you want to contribute to the maddening drone, but don't feel like shelling out the eight bucks, app developer mobilio.nl has created a vuvuzela app that offers a relatively genuine experience -- aurally, that is. The company says the app has already been downloaded over 750,000 times and is the #1 app in multiple countries, including South Africa and the UK.
And there's also good news for those at the games, fearful of incurring some hearing damage. Schalkwvk's company has partnered with Uthango Social Investments to manufacture and sell ear plugs at park and rides. Sell the noise and the damper: Sounds like a good business strategy.
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