SAO PAULO – The 2014 World Cup has an answer to the infernal vuvuzela that tortured eardrums four years ago – and it has somehow managed to become even more controversial than its droning predecessor.
Hopes were high that the caxirola, a colorful plastic contraption filled with tiny beads that makes a hissing sound when shaken, could become a much-loved symbol of the tournament.
Instead, despite being installed as the official World Cup Noisy Plastic Thing (my term, not FIFA's) and backed by Brazil's president Dilma Roussef, the caxirola (pronounced ka-she-roll-ah) has gotten itself banned from tournament venues and seems destined to be consigned to an inglorious place of ignominy as a future World Cup trivia question.
So how did an official product with heavyweight political support manage to get jettisoned before a ball has even been kicked?
For that, we have fans of Brazilian clubs Vitoria and Bahia to thank. During a game between the sides last April, supporters threw dozens of the instruments onto the field of play, suspending the action.
Not surprisingly, that raised alarm bells among FIFA's hierarchy and tournament officials amid fears that while the vuvuzela assaulted the tone sensors, this thing could actually cause someone real physical damage.
Although made of lightweight plastic, recyclable no less, the caxirola could be used as a missile and taking one on the chin after it has been hurled from the stands is no player's idea of fun.
Therefore, Brazil's Minister of Justice ultimately decreed that the instruments would be forbidden from being carried into stadiums on game days. (FIFA banned the vuvuzela after the 2010 World Cup.)
All of this was a blow to those who felt that the softer, more peaceful sound of the piece could be a welcome antidote to the painful vuvuzela, while still allowing for an injection of local culture.
[Slideshow: Meet the World Cup's endangered mascot]
It was developed in conjunction with popular Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, who unveiled it at a music festival and gained the support of Roussef – with the president rather confusingly proclaiming the caxirola as an object "capable of doing two things: combining images with sounds and take us to goals."
The odd thing is that the tournament ban does not seem to have had an adverse effect on sales. Caxirolas are available everywhere you look here, from the first souvenir shop once you enter Sao Paulo airport to bookstores, sports shops and upscale shopping centers. In fact, several stores told Yahoo Sports they have been selling out of the caxirolas.
Undoubtedly, some fans will try to smuggle them into the stadium for World Cup matches. Presumably, eagle-eyed security enforcers will be detailed to confiscate any spotted in the stands.
Ah, what could have been.
Carlinhos Brown insisted that thousands of caxirolas played in unison would have produced a hissing noise that "is like a beautiful breeze, not like a snake."
Maybe it is just as well. Maybe we would have all gotten sick of the sound before the end of the group stage anyways. Just ask the vuvuzula, unloved and unappreciated as it is.
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