A child blows a Vuvuzela in Johannesburg.(Ryan Pierse - FIFA via Getty Images)
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World Cup ready to open in South Africa and vuvuzelas will make plenty of noise

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A bright plastic horn called the Vuvuzela could be the defining sound of the upcoming World Cup in South Africa

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Nonetheless, Drake said, ESPN didn't lobby against the instrument.

"We recognize that it's a part of South African culture," Drake said. "We're not in a position to say that we want to alter that culture. We realize that it's there, and we're going to capture its sound -- if it doesn't capture us first."

The history of the vuvuzela is in dispute. Some sources trace it to religious rituals of the early 1900s. Others say it derives from the kudu horn once used to summon tribesmen to meetings.

Saddam Maake, 55, claims he invented the first vuvuzela in 1965, fashioning his bugle from a bicycle horn stripped of its rubber bladder.

According to Maake, he asked an industrialist friend in 1989 to make him a significantly longer vuvuzela from plastic so it would be louder and less threatening to carry around. And a phenomenon was born, with brightly colored vuvuzelas soon as ubiquitous among South African soccer stands as foam-rubber Cheeseheads at Green Bay Packers games.

To Maake, the vuvuzela expresses a range of positive emotions.

"It is freedom! Independence!" Maake says. "It encourages the soccer player and celebrates when he scores."

Asked if there were inappropriate occasions for blowing a vuvuzela, Maake cited three: During a national anthem, during a moment of silence for a fallen player or official, and anytime in someone's ear.

"It's bad for the ears," he conceded.

That said, Maake vowed to be the first among 48 million South Africans carted to jail in protest if FIFA banned the vuvuzela from the World Cup.

"This is South Africa!" Maake said. "We are host. So we have to show the people what we are, how we use the vuvuzela, how we enjoy it, how we are united."

But to Mondli Makhanya, former editor-in-chief of the (Johannesburg) Sunday Times, it is cause for lament, drowning out the songs that were sung at soccer matches throughout his childhood in Durban. Makhanya recently wrote a column expressing his dismay, likening the vuvuzela's sound to that of a goat being led to slaughter.


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