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July 2, 2010 > World Cup buzz causes mixed feelings

World Cup buzz causes mixed feelings

By David J. Nicolas

There was no table, stool or standing space in The Englander Sports Pub and Restaurant without an anxious, beer-wielding fan looking at one of the 50 television screens inside the downtown San Leandro watering hole. Some snuck bites of fluffy omelets and toast in between the United States' hit parade against the Algerian goal. But when goalkeeper Tim Howard hurled the ball past the midline and found a fleet-footed Landon Donovan who started the play that broke a tie in the 91st minute, looks of unease instantly transformed and caused an eruption of celebration and shouts of "U.S.A, U.S.A."

People embraced, raised pointed index fingers into the air, slapped hands. It seemed, at least for this early-morning crowd, that the vuvuzelas that were very present during the Mexico, France contest just days before weren't necessary to revel in victory.

Although, the plastic horn has become a staple for South African fans in the nine World Cup stadiums, many players and coaches have complained about the constant buzz and how it makes it difficult to communicate on the field. The BBC, after hundreds of complaints, has considered filtering out the on-field sound altogether. But FIFA has ruled on the side of fans and there won't be any ban of the trumpets during matches. But this tradition in South Africa leaves many fans at home in the middle about the noise.

"It's been electrifying. People really enjoy the World Cup," said Roy Childress, a supervisor at The Englander, who has seen an increase in patrons since the Cup began on June 11. The pub has opened its doors to accommodate the 4:30 a.m. match and, sometimes, the horns that people bring.

"I don't mind them. They are a lot of fun and fans are having fun. It only happens every four years," Childress said. He mentioned that many people come in for the early match. and stay until the end of the last match that begins at 11:30 a.m. Despite its filled capacity during game time, no customers have complained about vuvuzela use.

World class players Lionel Messi of Argentina and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo have aired their grievances against the noise. Messi, who was named La Liga Player of the Year in Spain's top soccer league in June after scoring 34 goals in 35 matches, even blamed vuvuzelas when his team allowed a goal against South Korea in its June 17 match. Through Saturday, June 26, none of the Argentine's 20 shot attempts have found the back of the net. Ronaldo has recorded one goal in 17 attempts.

Players and coaches may have a case. In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, teams scored 116 goals during group play compared to 94 goals in this year's Cup. But goalkeepers have had fewer clean sheets in South Africa as there has been six scoreless matches in the 2010 Cup and eight in group play four years ago.

"It doesn't bother me at all," said Winton Wong of Fremont who supports the U.S. team. "Players shouldn't complain about it because it's just part of sports."

Most stadiums where MLS teams play prohibit the instrument. According to Jed Mettee, a spokesman for the San Jose Earthquakes, fans bring scarves and banners to Buck Shaw Stadium, and drums are permissible in a designated area. No type of horns is allowed.

Antonio Diaz of Hayward hasn't kept up with the World Cup, but feels vuvuzela use during matches should be reduced. "They're annoying and they distract the players. They shouldn't be banned, but rules need to be stricter. Being at a game is enough support."

Wong supports almost all kinds of raucous displays of support as long as it doesn't turn into violence.

"In basketball when you shoot a free throw people are waving stuff around, they have horns and cow bells, and nobody complains about that," said Wong. "The World Cup is so big you would expect the noise factor to be much bigger compared to other sports. I don't think players should complain about it at all."

While the United States was eliminated from the World Cup on Saturday, June 26, 2-1 to Ghana in extra time, the tournament pushes on. Log into the TCV Sports website, www.sports.tricityvoice.com, to get all the scores and see who hoists the World Cup trophy on July 11.




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