The World Cup is causing quite a buzz on US television.
Preliminary estimates indicate the quadrennial tournament is off to a fast start with viewers, even with the odd, horn-blowing soundtrack that ESPN has sought to minimize on its broadcasts.
Saturday’s first-round tie between the US and England was seen by an estimated 13 million, the Nielsen Co. said yesterday. It was the nation’s most-watched soccer telecast since the 2006 Cup final between Italy and France, and the most-watched involving the US men’s team since 1994.
The first-round contests introduced most of the world to the vuvuzela, a plastic trumpet carried into the matches and blown on incessantly by fans. Viewers complained that it sounds as if the game is being played before a nest of angry bees.
It’s louder at the games than on the telecast. ESPN is altering the sound mix on its broadcasts to minimize the noise, network spokesman Bill Hofheimer said. The network has accepted it as part of the atmosphere and has made no complaints about the vuvuzelas, he said.
The sound is driving others crazy, though.
“The constant drone of cheap and tuneless plastic horns is killing the atmosphere of the World Cup,’’ wrote John Leicester, an international sports columnist for the Associated Press. He wrote that it is drowning out the oohs, aahs, and cheers that lend excitement to the matches.
Police appeared to set off two percussive grenades, causing loud bangs, to drive the workers out of a parking lot under the Moses Mabhida Stadium hours after Germany beat Australia.
Approximately 30 riot police charged into the crowd to drive the stewards out of the stadium. While calm returned to the stadium, some of the stewards, wearing orange and green jackets, milled around outside.
Police fired tear gas at protesters outside the stadium. A nearby street was littered with trash where the protesters were forced away. Concrete blocks were pushed into a street.
Police were called after hundreds of angry stewards gathered to complain about their wages.
“We left our homes at seven in the morning and now it is nearly 1 o’clock,’’ said Vincent Mkize. “In the dry run, they didn’t want to tell us how much we would get.’’
Another of the stewards, Fanak Falakhebuengu, said they expected to be paid 1,500 rand ($195) a day but were only getting 190 rand ($25).
The problem appeared to occur for a second straight day yesterday when Algeria and Slovenia kicked off in Polokwane with about one-third of the stands empty.
Only 31,513 people attended South Korea’s 2-0 victory at Mandela Bay Stadium, which holds 42,486 spectators.
FIFA said just 3,000 tickets were available on the morning of the match.
“It looked like a lot of people did not show up at the stadium. We are investigating this,’’ FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot.
Before the tournament, FIFA aimed to ensure full stadiums by cutting the price on tickets for matches less attractive to fans in the worldwide sales.