In any other country it would have been just a gathering of fans to wish their team well, albeit a very large gathering. In Europe they may have sung a mournful tune, and in the Americas they would have waved flags. In South Africa they did permanent damage to the hearing of passengers in jet airliners passing 20,000 feet overhead.
We think the vuvuzela is awesome, and we continue to salute Fifa for not attempting to ban our favourite cultural weapon from stadia. But this is no longer a recommendation, it is a dire warning: if you are going to a game, take earplugs.
The crowd that gathered in Sandton on Wednesday to wish Bafana well, and start the celebrations for the inevitable victory over Mexico in the opening match, took the roof off. And it made no difference that they were outdoors. As the density of vuvuzelas crept closer to critical levels (beyond which the surrounding atmosphere would catch fire from the continuous agitation, resulting the end of all life on earth) the noise drowned out police sirens, public address systems and the shouted attempts at communication from people mere centimetres apart.
The fans ranged from babies so tiny their toddler-sized Bafana jerseys nearly drowned them to the decided geriatric. Some had come from far away to join in the celebration, many had simply walked from their desks in neighbouring office buildings. They were wrapped in flags, flying big flags and waving little flags. About the only thing they had in common were the colours of their gear and the vuvuzelas, which ranged from charm-sized to custom builds several metres long. By the time the bus carrying the players inched its way among them, all of those vuvus were being blown with gusto.
Probably less than amused at all the pre-emptive festivities were the handful of motorists who got caught up in the crowd before surrounding roads were closed (and most had to abandon their cars as close to the curb as they could get) and the occupants of a Dutch team bus, which for some reason was routed right through ground zero. Sadly the windows of the bus were sufficiently darkened that we could not capture the fear on the faces of the occupants.
Similar gatherings were held in many other parts of the country, but those largely served only to prove that this will be a Joburg World Cup rather than a South African one.
Which brings us to another piece of advice: if you are of a sensitive disposition, it may be best to leave Johannesburg well before we reach the formality of Bafana actually raising the trophy at the end of the final match. It’s going to be pretty wild.
By Phillip de Wet
(Disclaimer: De Wet’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily shared by this publication or its defamation lawyers. We will also not accept claims for refunds on any money you bet on a Bafana win, or damages for emotional pain and suffering should things not go as predicted here. Further small print may also apply, if we think of any.)