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Football: Call of Horn Uplifting Spirits in South Africa - 2004-08-09

An inexpensive plastic horn is to become the unofficial symbol of the football World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010. The inventor of the horn hopes other young entrepreneurs will take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the staging of the world's most important football event in South Africa.

It is raucous, loud and reminiscent of a trumpeting elephant. It is the vuvuzela - a 60-centimeter, brightly colored plastic horn that has become both the sound and the symbol of South African football.

The horn is the brainchild of Neil van Schalkwyk, a young colored, or mixed-race, plastics toolmaker from Cape Town. He got the idea from soccer fans who go to matches equipped with homemade metal horns, usually made out of discarded tin cans. Mr. van Schalkwyk says blowing the horn is part of a long tradition.

"Traditionally, the tribesmen used to use animal horns to call traditional gatherings and so on," he says.

He calls his horn the Boogie Blast, but football fans found a better name for it.

"And, I think, obviously, the ardent football supporters - they started calling it the vuvuzela, like, collectively, people started calling it that. It means - pump it up, lift it up - it is a slang name for lifting spirits," he says.

It was not long before the sound of the trumpet began to dominate football stadiums, such as at this May tournament, featuring the country's most popular team, Kaizer Chiefs.

In the four years since the first vuvuzela appeared at a Cape Town soccer match, it has become so much a symbol of the game in South Africa that former President Nelson Mandela ordered a batch to take to Zurich for the May FIFA (International Federation of Football Associations) announcement of the host of the 2010 finals.

Mr. van Schalkwyk says this, coupled with South Africa winning the bid to host the event for the first time on African soil, greatly boosted his monthly sales.

"Before the World Cup announcement, the 2010 World Cup announcement, we were averaging about 2,000 to3,000 units a month. And like, on the odd occasion, the corporates would buy some from us. But since the World Cup announcement, we've been averaging about 20,000 to 25,000 units now - a month, yes," Mr. van Schalkwyk says. "And it's increasing. The demand has increased tremendously, and we are increasing our production capacity now to meet the demand."

He says the timing of the World Cup announcement has helped his business, but that his success is chiefly due to his own innovation and hard work. He says he hopes his commercial success will encourage other young entrepreneurs to take a chance and work hard to achieve their dreams, too.