Since the beginning of this year’s World Cup, European bureaucrats inside and outside the parliament have a new enemy: the vuvuzela. In their mind, the soundscape of a game should be dominated by chants and cheers rather than the ear-wrecking humming sound from the traditional Southern African noisemakers.

Photo: Dundas Football Club
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Whatever tradition that is – ancient Zulu or recent soccer – blaming the Vuvuzela for its questionable origin may be the weakest defence that health fanatics and game commentary supporters are using these days. But while many object to the vuvuzela in general, others may actually welcome it as a way to avoid having to listen to the strange statistics presented by the commentators, e.g. about the grandmother of the girlfriend of that one player who is not even playing. It always depends on your point of view.

Still, the bureaucrats should be partly relieved, for if the instruments were put into effect in good old EU-governed Europe there would be no difficulty banning them. According to Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise, an effort has to be made to "define a common approach intended to avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to exposure to environmental noise."

Now we all know that such definitions of common approaches may take a while (c.f. regulation following the financial crisis), but there may even be a second possibility Brussel's regulators have equipped us with: Directive 2003/10/EC on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise). It defines a noise exposure limit of 85 dB and obliges the employers to measure the amount of noise and adjust working conditions accordingly. Now it is hard to imagine Christiano Ronaldo and all his colleagues being forced to play with compulsory earplugs – so clearly the vuvuzelas would have to go.

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But let's take a step back and look at our own European traditions. It quickly becomes apparent that not only the vuvuzelas would violate the EU criteria. Also some of us Europeans have eccentric hobbies that do not always fit the rules. Let us take bagpipes as an example. With their sound level well exceeding the 85 dB limit, a ban would have to be enforced on them as well. Not to mention the fact that they are allegedly a climate killer, as traditionally their pipes are made from tropical woods.

Most of you will now protest and argue that some regulations just should not be enforced too harshly. So maybe we should be as cautious when prematurely calling for bans on parts of other cultures' soccer identities. Maybe we should rather learn from each other, as there are still numerous examples on how to successfully take on the fight with the vuvuzela. For example, the simple and rhythmic chants of the English supporters during the match against Germany were well heard and the only thing that was (slightly) disturbed was the European harmony as a result of the unavoidable win-lose situation.

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