ABU DHABI // Football fanatics will soon be able to sound the clarion call of the World Cup from the comfort of their local cafe. The arrival of the vuvuzela - the loudest and, to some, most annoying of stadium must-haves - is being trumpeted across the country after a local businessman, Dhia el Din, ordered more than 10,000 of the controversial horns.
After their arrival in 10 days' time, he hopes they will become as much a fixture at local tournaments as they are in South Africa. "Now we will sell them at hotels, coffee shops and other places where they play World Cup games on TV," said Mr el Din, a 40-year-old Palestinian from Abu Dhabi. "We can market them and sell them at local football tournaments. They are famous right now and will be used for everything."
The vuvuzela has become a bone of contention for football fans, with some arguing the instrument should be banned because the sound ruins the atmosphere and drowns out TV commentary. But their calls have so far fallen on deaf ears. Mr el Din, who has lived in the capital all his life, will stock two models of the instrument, which is played like a trumpet, one made in the UK and one from China. The British version will retail at around Dh50, and the cheaper Chinese version - reputedly easier on the lungs - will cost between Dh15 and Dh20.
"We will also have several different colours for different games, depending on the flags of the teams that are playing," added Mr el Din. The horn, branded as potentially harmful to hearing by the Hear the World Foundation, an initiative formed by the Swiss hearing aids manufacturer Phonak, has been selling for Dh36 at South African stadiums. Commentators have described the sound as akin to "a stampede of noisy elephants" and "a deafening swarm of locusts". They have been accused of killing the atmosphere at matches, drowning out the chants of the crowd and the commentary for spectators at home.
Their sound levels have been measured to reach 131 decibels, on a par with a jet plane taking off 30 meters away, though a new model released this week claims to cut noise levels by 20 decibels. "Mr Din's is the only request we have had from the UAE," said David Broughton, the head of importers Businesses Work Limited in the UK. As the man who imports the horn to the UK, he has earned the nickname "Mr Vuvuzela".
"If ever there was an opportunity, it is now." Since Saturday, Mr Broughton has sold some 5,000 vuvuzelas. "We were the first people to get them into UK football," he said. "We did source them from South Africa but they can't keep up with the demand. Now we are getting them from the Far East." Vuvuzelas, also known by their Setswana name, Lepatata, became popular at South African football matches during the 1990s.