Here is my brief understanding of the World Cup, and what happened, admittedly a confused and confusing reading as ever. Lee’s contribution will be up midweek next week, possibly with other’s to follow.
The standard response to the vuvuzela, which may have come in to being as an extension of Tswana culture’s use of the kudu horn to gather villagers to tribal meetings, is one of dislike. Sport 606, that bastion of common sense and objective response, goes with the idea that the vuvuzela ruins the atmosphere at games with constant monotone buzzing. I understand that the hearing loss issue has also swept people in to a frenzy, asking FIFA to ban them from all football matches. I’ve quite enjoyed them. Over the course of the tournament they went from simply being epically loud (which could be allied to the idea that they represent an anti-colonial fuck you – we are louder than you now) to interestingly creative. Games towards the latter stages had oscillations and pulses of sound, waves that moved over the crowd and pitch creating an atmosphere that I doubt could be met by 20,000 people calling the ref a cunt in unison (as amusing as that is). The sound reminds me of an Icarus track called Three False Starts, made using the noise created by hundreds of bees, or indeed some of Phill Niblock’s work with horns. I even made a little video transplanting Niblock on to an old World Cup game just to see if they could be livened by the sound.
My issues is that much of the response to the vuvuzela was knee jerk; ‘they’re different, I don’t like it’, a position that lacks engagement with the heritage of the thing, or even the loosest ideas of what the horn and the sound it makes might represent to Africans. They create atmosphere in the same way klaxons used to or chanting continues to – it is simply an alternative. For those who object to the noise specifically, I think perhaps the football stadium is the wrong place to be if you’re after well managed noise at a healthy non-deafening level.
From a Cageian perspective, the vuvuzela is a ‘waking noise’, something that has shaken people from aural slumber. It has created engagement, albeit of a limited love-hate dichotomy. The noise is overt and demands attention, it doesn’t allow people to slip in to the usual pattern of avoidance that characterises the sound of the everyday; the aircraft, cars, washing machines, high pitched machine whine, shouting, door slamming world we all exist in. Perhaps that is why people object…because it forces them to reacquaint with a world of noise they have learnt to block out. Sadly, the hegemonic nature of the understanding of sound and approaches to it favours the idea that noise is a negative, something to be pushed aside rather than embraced as Cage would suggest. The vuvuzela is a mirror on what we cannot admit, and instead of dealing with our problem – the fact that, increasingly, we don’t understand the actions/interactions of our aural landscape – we simply compartmentalise the ‘instrument’, make it nothing more than an irritation.
The referee had been much maligned at this tournament, with the exception of Yorkshireman Howard Webb and his team. Aside from Webb’s exemplary no-nonsense approach to advantage play and the appropriate use of cards*, it was his full team that deserved credit, and rightly deserved to referee the final. Darren Cann was the sharp-eyed linesman who disallowed (for offside) the Italian goal against Slovakia, the replay confirming his decision to be correct by the amazing margin of Quagliarella’s right leg and part of his ear. Others have fared less well, with too many blunders to name, including Tevez’s supreme offside against Mexico, as well as Lampard’s goal in the Germany game. The thing I find strange is that the pundits, on all channels, decry the ability of referees to keep up with the pace of the game, or indeed step over the ball when it is needed. They’re supposed to be able to read the game, or at least see where it is going. The pundits though are equally at fault in terms of not noticing the obvious. Big name players performed exceptionally badly at this tournament, even if David Villa scored the occasional goal, and no-one seemed to be able to admit it. The emphasis was not on team tactics and overall performances, but on the cult of the individual . Messi, Ronaldo et al underachieved massively, and the most pundits could manage was ‘they’ve had a slightly ropey tournament’. They were shit. Progress should be measured by the ability to admit getting things wrong (and they’ve admitted plenty of mistakes, as have many of the referees and linesman, in terms of the incredible unpredictability of the tournament eg. No South American teams in the final) and then moving on from that. The inability to distinguish good and bad performance of key individuals is laughable. Let me expand…
Football pundits and commentators
The BBC commentary team for the tournament has been largely enjoyable, mainly because Guy Mowbray appeared happy to take the piss out of all and sundry, as did Mark’s Lawrenson and Bright. Sadly the studio pundits were less impressive. The BBC appeared insistent on an odd interviewing technique for their ‘features’ before matches, which essentially involved football managers (Hodgson, Redknapp etc) who had sat in the pundit chair the day before, being asked the same questions in a slightly different room, with annoying stylised touches added to the edits. Considering the money the BBC has spent on sending people to SA, actually bothering to film some real features might have been worth it…you know…like giving Gaby Logan something to do rather than comb back the hair from her peculiar eagle-esque face. Hansen, with his archetypal dour approach, and near horizontal posture which would give Tom Paulin a run for his money, seemed unwilling to engage with any opinion outside of random attacks on players he considered ‘useless’ (these assessments were often devoid of context…on several occasions, Redknapp pulled him up, discussing X’s form at club level, to which Hansen simply shrugged and said ‘I haven’t seen him’) along with towing the BBC line of overemphasising the importance of key-individual players like Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney et al. who were, to my mind, overshadowed by the likes of Honda, Vittek, Gyan and Ozil in terms of performance and actually playing within their team dynamics.
Still, Hansen is nowhere nearly as irritating as Edgar Davids on ITV, who spent this World Cup in a peculiar state-of-being whereby he was mildly put-out at every question thrown at him by Adrian Chiles, answering in an oddly distanced way that made me think he was perhaps looking at the tournament from a different plain of existence to the rest of the world, whereby he floats above each stadia with an expression of constant, effortless boredom spread across his face like supermarket sandwich filling. Worse still was Andy Townsend, whose frequent barbs at Capello ranged from short sighted to borderline racist. Capello was exclusively to blame for a team of pampered, psychologically damaged and egotistical players failing to gel at the tournament; he lacked passion because he was Italian and didn’t understand the historical importance of the England dynamic**; England should have an English manager; Capello’d be on Lake Garda the week after the tournament and he couldn’t give a shit. That’s Andy Townsend, born in Maidstone, Kent, who spent his entire career playing for English clubs, but captained the Republic of Ireland in two World Cup Finals. He takes a familiar position in the narrative of British broadcasting and print media – the coach is always, always to blame for all faults. Despite a spirited defence in some papers***, Capello was already set up to fall, but then didn’t. Personally, I felt the rigidity of the formation was an issue, as was the continued use of Heskey/taking Sean Wright Philips – ultimately, the main reason we failed was because the players didn’t play.
Additionally, Peter Drury was dire; his commentary lacked the amusing asides that Pearce/Mowbray managed, he offered no pleasing historical nuggets (Pearce spent the Brazil-Portugal game drifting off in to the colonial history of ‘Latin’ America) and managed to make even the most interesting games dull with a complete lack of enthusiasm (that occasionally extended to the peaks eg. goals as well as standard play). Sometimes he’d shout, but more often than not he’ll change tone slightly. To counter this slightly, his performance on Tuesday 6th, when he commentated alone – presumably because ITV had run out of money to pay an associate – was exemplary, as he essentially had a 90 minute conversation with himself. Not that I really have any idea who he is.
I could have probably gotten a lot of work done during the World Cup, but didnt. This was good in a way, because I missed much of the last tournament by being asleep (I was working nights at the time), and the 2002 World Cup was just badly scheduled…seriously…S.Korea and Japan. This piece is all pretty disorganised, largely because I started without any clear idea of where I was going or what the outcome would be. I think that is suitably analogous to the tournament as a whole though, so I’ll leave it there/here.
*I am unsure as to whether or not this is tarred by the final at all, which saw I think 15 cards. The standard of play was pretty dire in terms of the severity of the fouls committed…at one point the Dutch could comfortably have been reduced to 8 men…but I think Webb went for the sensible option of not sending people off in favour of keeping the game fairly balanced. The Dutch would be pissed off regardless, and indeed were once the whistle blew.
**First up…since when has anyone ever thought an Italian wasn’t passionate about anything…pretty much any dug out footage during the England games showed him throwing an utter fit at the ineptitude of his side, and his voice could be heard over the sound of vuvuzelas and commentary on a semi regular basis. Secondly, historical importance is sort of the problem…too much baggage from every other success/failure. Clean sheet needed? Start from scratch with entirely new players anyone?
***Some nice stats at the end of James Lawton’s piece in the Independent… http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/james-lawton-the-players-failed–ndash-and-they-failed-their-manager-too-2013099.html