The origins of the two-foot long plastic blowing horn, commonly known as the vuvuzela, remains shrouded in mystery. The general consensus is that it was the Zulu Nazareth Baptist Church, locally known as the Shembe Church (after its founder Isaiah Shembe) who first used the instrument during worship from around 1910.
It was not until the 1990’s, when Neil Van Schalckwyk saw the vuvuzela in stadiums while playing professionally at a local club in Cape Town, that he saw a business opportunity and patented the plastic instrument. To date, his company, Masincedane Sport, has sold over 800,000 vuvuzelas – 100,000 of them during the first week of the World Cup.
The instrument has proved to be hugely controversial and its loud monotonous drone in stadiums became synonymous with South Africa’s World Cup. There were vociferous calls worldwide to see it banned, but FIFA stood its ground. The World Football Governing Body in the end claimed that a World Cup without vuvuzelas would have attempted to take away the very heart of what made this a distinctively South African football event.
Only time will tell if the vuvuzela will become a constant feature at future major football events or indeed even at club football level. But for those who thought they had definitely seen the last of the instrument (with some relief it might be added), it is with some concern to note that in Brazil, where the next World Cup is to be held in 2014, there exists an established variation of the plastic blowing horn known as the Corneta.