Horror of the Horns
Could the ‘vuvuzela effect’ lead to the return of farmyard conditions on Ukraine’s football terraces?
Despite enjoying a large novelty effect which made many neutrals initially sympathetic to this South African innovation, most international audiences have generally reacted negatively to the blanket horn accompaniment which has marked most matched at World Cup 2010. The majority of fans (and, indeed, some players) has complained that the blanket noise generated by vuvuzela horns actually makes it difficult to concentrate on matches. Some TV broadcasters have gone so far as to develop new technical options which will allow viewers to block out the drone of the horns, while individual football associations have already announced their intention to ban the instruments from football grounds in the coming season. However, despite a rising tide of demands to remove the offensive instruments from stadiums, FIFA officials have stated that the horns are acceptable and should be enjoyed as a cultural phenomenon. They seem to have adopted the politically correct dogma that as these vuvuzela horns appear to be such an intrinsic part of modern South African culture, they should be celebrated and embraced regardless of how annoying they actually are.
This vuvuzela debate will have struck a particularly strong cord among Ukrainian football fans, who have only recently managed to overcome a nationwide passion for horn-blowing at football matches. For many years Ukraine’s halfempty football stadiums were haunted by the inane blowing of cheap plastic horns which were sold in their thousands on match days. However, a concerted effort by local fans to rid Ukrainian football of this unfortunate addiction has now resulted in the near complete eradication of horn-blowing from Ukrainian stadiums. Horn-blowing had been an intrinsic part of Ukrainian football throughout the 1980s and 1990s; the situation had reached such a nadir by 2006 that members of the Dynamo Kyiv fan club actually printed up a series of posters demanding that fans ceased offering their tuneless musical accompaniment. Graffiti also appeared around Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium ridiculing Ukraine’s hornblowing culture and comparing it unfavourably to the impressive array of flags, banners and songs associated with most Western European football followers. Dynamo Kyiv fan Sasha Braychenko was one of the people behind this drive to rid Ukrainian football of its horn horrors and he sees the current emergence of the vuvuzela as a dangerous sign of the dumbing down of a once quickwitted football culture. “We worked to get horn-blowing out of Ukrainian football because we wanted to offer Dynamo the kind of quality support which you see from the fans of sides like Barcelona, Liverpool and other top European clubs. They all sing songs and have clever chants but until recently we offered nothing more than empty noise and banal, herd-like braying. Basically the use of horns embarrassed us and made Ukraine look like some kind of cultural and footballing backwater,” he comments.
This campaign to rid Ukrainian football of horn-blowing fans has been largely successful, but the irony is that horns may now be reintroduced into Ukrainian football via the very same European fans who the Dynamo Ultras first sought to emulate. Thousands of European fans visiting the World Cup this summer will return home armed with their own vuvuzela horns, and there is a very real danger that they will then bring them along to matches during Euro 2012. Opportunistic manufacturers in Europe are already producing thousands of the rudimentary instruments and they are likely to be on sale across the EU within weeks. It looks likely that many younger fans attending their first matches at Euro 2012 may well remain charmed by these irritating devices and will bring them to Ukraine in large numbers. Despite the best efforts of Ukraine’s most progressive football fans, we may then have to resign ourselves to the long-term return of the horn to the country’s stadiums and the consequent deterioration of the match day atmosphere for both those who attend matches and those who prefer to watch on TV.