(originally aired on BBC Radio Manchester, 13th June 2010)
I think I first heard it last Saturday outside Tesco in Prestwich. Three lads messing about making a real racket. I think they’d just bought The Sun and got 3 free plastic horns. And so, reasonably enough, they were trying them out. It sounded fairly horrible. A drone: noisy, insistent, unavoidable. And we’re going to hear them a lot more during the World Cup.
This week I’ve read more about these horns. They are the vuvuzela horns. Apparently FIFA were going to ban them, but in South Africa they are an important way for football fans to support their teams. So the blasts from the horns, louder than a chainsaw apparently, continue and will do so for the next 30 days or so.
They certainly attract attention – they remind the world that Africa is hosting one of the most important global events this month. And if you think about it, that is remarkable. It’s not that long ago that South Africa was boycotted by the rest of the world. It’s not that long ago that people said it would implode into violence. It’s not that long ago that pop groups were singing about Freeing Nelson Mandela.
But now there is a blast of hope. And we all feel it.
We hope that England will do well. It’s started all already, the ‘will we, won’t we?’ conversations. Is last night a sign of all that is to come? Can we actually do it this time?
So much hope.
But of course, if, and it’s a massive if, we get to the 12th July and Steven Gerrard lifts the World Cup, life will go on. We might feel a bit better, but we’ll be facing the same challenges. Hopes may have been fulfilled. But the result of these hopes is always limited.
And the flags will be taken down, and we’ll go back to watching other programmes on the telly. But what about the horns? They’ll hang around a lot longer. They’re not going to biodegrade easily.
Is it too much to hope that the blast of hope that comes out of South Africa will remain? That the continent might change? That life will be different for that part of the world that has suffered so much.
Well here’s a prayer of hope that the apostle Paul offered to one of the churches in the New Testament 2000 years ago:
May the God of hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
May God do that for the African continent. And may we live to see it.
Oh and for those of you who can’t wait for the World Cup to end, here’s one written by an Anglican bishop:
Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever, bless us with understanding, strengthen us with patience and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.