Buzkashi - National Sport of Afghanistan
If you think football is a rough game, then you're definitely too much of a sissy to play Buzkashi. The national sport of Afghanistan is a dangerous, free-wheeling battle to keep control of a goat's carcass.
How Do You Play Buzkashi?
Buzkashi translated into English means "goat grabbing" or "goat killing." A headless carcass of a goat, a calf or a sheep is placed in the center of a circle and surrounded by the players of two teams who are on horseback. The object of the game is to pick up the carcass and bring it across a goal line or into the winner's circle.
The carcass to be used in Buzkashi is gutted and soaked in water 24 hours before the game starts. This is done so the carcass stays together and won't be torn to pieces while the hundreds of horsemen compete to grab the carcass and score. Sometimes sand is also packed inside the carcass to give it some extra weight.
Once the carcass is ready, it's placed in a circle and then the fun starts. On a set signal, all the horsemen will race to grab the carcass and gallop away with it. The team or rider who carries the carcass across the goal line wins. The other riders try to prevent that by attacking the rider and trying to steal the carcass away. Riders are not allowed to tie the carcass to their saddle or hit other opponents on the hand to knock the carcass away. Other than that, anything goes. Opponents can punch each other in the face, kick each other and sometimes if they're playing near a river, they may even try to drown their opponent.
How Was Buzkashi Invented?
The game Buzkashi has been played since the 13th century. Tribes in Afghanistan would often steal goats or cattle by swooping down while on horseback and picking them up. Tribes came up with strategies to defend against the attacks and Buzkashi developed from there. Games used to last a few days as the scoring line would often be several kilometres away from the starting circle. Some Buzkashi games would even be played using the carcass of a member of an enemy tribe, instead of a goat or other animal.
Keys to Winning?
Becoming a Buzkashi champion can't be done without a good horse. A rider's horse must be well trained and know enough to stop for their rider if he's thrown off. The horse must also know when to gallop at top speed if the rider manages to grab the carcass. A horse may often be trained for up to five years before playing in a game of Buzkashi.