RIDER IN THE STORM
ESPN’s in-depth look at the current state of Afghanistan’s national sport - Buzkashi.
Men on horseback grab a goat from a chalk circle, carry it around a pole and drop it into another circle. No downs, innings, line judges or refs. Sometimes there are teams, and sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes the field is 200 meters by 200 meters, and sometimes it isn’t. And the goat? The goat might be a calf, but it’s always dead, just lying there with its head and hooves cut off.Grab the goat, bring it around the pole and put it in the circle. That’s buzkashi.
After the Russians came the Taliban. They didn’t forbid buzkashi, but they took a lot of the high-strung buzkashi horses, rode them in the summer heat and killed them through neglect. By the time the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance drove out the Taliban after 9/11, few decent horses remained. But then the money, American money, began to flow in, and the tribal big men found themselves in the right place at the right time. Men like Mohammad Qasim Fahim, currently the country’s first vice president, second in power to President Hamid Karzai. He commanded the Northern Alliance forces, and for his cooperation with the CIA, he reportedly received millions of dollars. Flush with piles of greenbacks, Fahim spent heavily on buzkashi players and horses. Other tribal big men who profited, including Abdul Rashid Dostum, Karzai’s chief of staff, did the same. And at that point the game became a display of power — a game of its own.
Some documentary footage of an actual match in action:
"There is no greater shame to a chief or horse owner then when his horse has performed badly. It is better to shoot a chief straight in the face with a gun then tell him loudly on the field that his horse is weak and not fast enough."
War is Boring: Buzkashi, Rougher than Politics
New Zealand Herald: ‘Mounted goat rugby from hell’ may go global
The Guardian: Kabul goes mad for wild sport
[Sources: Best Tourism, Metafilter and Douglas Haddow]
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- onemoreheretic said: Oh dear gods. That poor goat.
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