Afghanistan’s National Sport, Buzkashi, featured in ESPN and Wall Street Journal

I had no idea what Buzkashi was before yesterday, but after reading a few stories on it, I got hooked.

Here’s part of the ESPN story:

There aren’t a lot of bats, balls or rackets in northern Afghanistan. There are goats, horses, men and dusty plains, and they have been there ever since Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde swept into the neighborhood in the 13th century. Their game, then, is simple. 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.

Wall Street Journal had something good in April:

Over the past several years, the ancient sport of buzkashi—Dari for “goat grabbing”—has turned into a big business in northern Afghanistan. Instead of sporting-goods manufacturers, sponsors usually are rival warlords who bet on their favorite goat grabbers.

Afghanistan’s ‘Goat Grabbing’ Game

The buzkashi stars get a monthly wage, receive cars as gifts for a stellar performance and save enough money to afford a second or even third wife, the ultimate status symbol here.

“I used to practice buzkashi on donkeys, now I drive a Lexus!” said 33-year-old champion Jahaan Geer from his saddle covered in bright hand-woven carpets.

Mr. Geer used to play for Abdul Rashid Dostum, one of Afghanistan’s most brutal warlords in the 1990s civil war, but he recently switched to play for Kam Air, the Afghan airline, whose wealthy owner is one of the biggest buzkashi enthusiasts.

Absurdly amazing. Both articles are good reads. A lot of former warlords-turned-businessmen are involved and it’s become a big post-Taliban reminder of humanity (and sometimes lack thereof) in Afghanistan. Reminds me a lot of Pro Thunderball.

Circle of Justice has a better ring than gun circle.


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