Saturday, January 09, 2010
Many now question our purpose in Afghanistan. Perhaps we are fighting, in part, to protect this sort of thing.
The Afghan national sport is called "Buzkashi." The humorless Taliban banned it during their reign, but it has come back with a vengeance following the U.S. invasion, and is now more popular than ever. Friday is buzkashi day in Afghanistan.
The term literally means "goat grabbing." And that is exactly what it is. The game resembles polo, though played with a decapitated goat carcass.The goal is to snatch the goat carcass from whoever has it, race around a flag at the far end of the field, and then race back and drop the carcass in a chalk circle. And most anything goes between each end of the field. The ensuing melee has been charitably described as "lightly-regulated."
American anthropologist G. Whitney Azoy finds buzkashi a suitable metaphor for Afghan life: brutal, chaotic, a continual fight for control (in this case, of a dead goat)...[where] leaders are men who can seize control by means foul and fair and then fight off their rivals. The buzkashi rider does the same.
Haji Abdul Rashid, head of the government-sponsored Buzkashi Federation simply notes that the game reminds Afghans of their warrior culture...and the goat symbolizes their vanquished foe. He states bluntly, Buzkashi is Afghanistan.
Rashid is thinking big. He wants to see buzkashi organized in leagues, with televised matches supported by corporate sponsorship. And yes, he is dreaming of the day when buzkashi is an Olympic event.
I pay no more mind to the Olympic Games than I do any sporting event. But, in the highly improbable event that Rashid's feverish fantasy were to somehow become reality...well, I would probably watch.