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.


s-p said...

hmmm...maybe if we put them in Ralph Lauren "Polo" outfits and had guys use a faux mink in order to not offend PETA maybe we could put together an American team...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well I never thought I'd side with the Taliban on anything, but here it is...

John said...

The fact that this game is considered bizarre to us, but normative to Afghans should tell us something about just how far we are out of our element, and perhaps just how unrealistic some of our expectations are.

Milton T. Burton said...

Among the Pashtuns this business takes second place to raping defeated enemies. Male enemies, that is. These people are very, very different, but you will never convince the neocons of that.

Kontiki said...

Rashid is thinking big.
He wants to see buzkashi organized in leagues,
Oh my god
with televised matches supported by corporate sponsorship.
what !
And yes, he is dreaming of the day when buzkashi is an Olympic event.
i love Greece Olympic & thats it :)

well , i do like this post. :)
for me as Arab person afghan is mixed & complicated culture , too much injustice toward women , too much mistakes about religion . the result is best men in US army are back dead :( & here in Egypt we face invasion of their ideas covered by the name of "Islam" supported by governmental efforts to make ppl busy thinking of each & single stupid religious matters , afghan want all the Arab world to be like them .

John said...

Kontiki, thanks for comments. I appreciate your input. Please do write again sometime.

gaudium said...

Maybe I'm just weird, but the game doesn't seem so bizarre to me. No more than men tackling each other for a football, or beating each other up for a hockey puck. And after all, it was in a Rambo movie! ( sUlVXdoqITk) Though it does seem wasteful to keep killing goats every time you want a game. If they set up a league, maybe they would start using stuffed goats.

Anonymous said...

In Texas it's called "cabrito" and it's good.

sonny amin said...

The American version of Buzkashi played in California in the form Ox Game USA .