Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Bushkazi is the national sport and a "passion" in Afghanistan where it is often played on Fridays and matches draw thousands of fans (male only and the odd expat female). During the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, Buzkashi was banned, as the Taliban considered the game to be immoral. Since the ousting of the Taliban regime the game is being played again. American anthropologist G. Whitney Azoy described it as being a metaphor for Afghan life: "Brutal, chaotic, a continual fight for control".
Serious Buzkashi players train intensively for years, and many of the masters (called chapandaz) are over forty years old. Playing well also requires specially trained horses that know to stop still when a rider is thrown and to gallop forcefully when their rider gets hold of the calf. These horses can sell today for as much as US$10,000-15,000.
Buzkashi is often compared to polo. Both games are played between people on horseback, both involve propelling an object toward a goal, and both get fairly rough. However, polo is played with a ball, while Buzkashi is played with a dead animal. Polo matches are played for fixed periods totaling about an hour; traditional Buzkashi may continue for days, but in its more regulated tournament version also has a limited match time.
The calf in a Buzkashi game is normally beheaded and disemboweled and has its limbs cut off at the knees. It is then soaked in cold water for 24 hours before play to toughen it. Occasionally sand is packed into the carcass to give it extra weight. Players may not strap the calf to their bodies or saddles. Though a goat is used when no calf is available, a calf is less likely to disintegrate during the game.