The vuvuzela: coming to an Asian country near you

by Talek Harris, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 22 2010 06:55 AM | Updated as of Jun 22 2010 02:55 PM

SYDNEY - It's the World Cup instrument that has irked the globe -- and now, the vuvuzela is coming to an Asian country near you, courtesy of an Australian retailer.

Sydney's Appaloosa Toys has enjoyed a "1,000 percent" rise in sales of the noisy South African trumpet since the start of the World Cup, where it has provided an ear-splitting soundtrack.

Company director Vaughn de Kretser said Appaloosa, believed to be among the region's leading suppliers, had sold thousands of vuvuzelas, including shipments to Japan, Singapore and Fiji.

De Kretser said Appaloosa received an order for 200 vuvuzelas from New Zealand on Monday morning -- the day after the All Whites held world champions Italy to a 1-1 draw.

"They're very, very popular," said de Kretser. "We're not only restricting our sales to Australia, we sell them over eBay. We're selling them all around the world."

The monotonous vuvuzela has become a controversial symbol of Africa's first World Cup with organisers rejecting calls for a stadium ban as they drown out crowd chants and leave players unable to hear their team-mates.

The genteel Wimbledon tennis tournament has already announced a strict bar as a British supermarket chain sold 40,000 England-branded vuvuzelas, while Italians have also snapped up the plastic horns.

"The absurd thing is that everyone hates them, but everyone wants them," a spokeswoman for the South African tourism board in Italy told AFP.

In Sydney, vuvuzelas were discouraged at the official Fan Fest big-screen site at Darling Harbour, subduing the atmosphere further as Australia drew a vital game with Ghana on Saturday.

Appaloosa has placed mass orders for vuvuzelas from producers in southern China, where factories are churning out hundreds of thousands of the cheap toy and sending them worldwide.

De Kretser said his company has already sold at least 2,000 vuvuzelas, and warned sales were yet to peak.

"We've been selling this product for the last three or four months but since the World Cup started it's transformed sales. It's like a piece of history -- everybody wants to grab one for themselves," he said.

"I don't think it's really hit the peak because the World Cup momentum will keep going," he added.

A range of vuvuzelas is available, from a tiny version for children to the normal size priced at 11 dollars (10 US), while another symbol of the World Cup -- outsized plastic glasses -- are also on sale.

"People have said that it (vuvuzelas) adds to the atmosphere. We can hear the groan going on in the background, it's a constant drone," Kretser said.