Dead Goats & Afghanistan's National Sport


Get on a horse and race to the carcass of a goat, sheep, or calf.  While riding you must secure the carcass and simultaneously fight off opponents as they try to steal your possession.  Ride around a flag at one end of the field and then back to the opposite side to drop the carcass in a circle. This is Afghanistan's national sport.  This is buzkashi.  

Historic Game
Played for centuries across Central Asia and known by other names, such as kokpar, buzkashi means "goat-dragging".  Either began by or inspired by the talents of Genghis Khan's Mongols, buzkashi was encouraged not only as a sport, but also as a way to improve its military prowess. Young people playing the sport developed the skills necessary to defend against raiding nomadic groups.  Chief among those skills was the ability to multi-task will riding a galloping horse; not to mention the training the horses endured to remain calm during a skirmish. (Some believe the sport is even older - dating to the arrival of Alexander the Great.)

From Banishment to Prosperity
Buzkashi flourishes today, but was strictly forbidden under the Taliban.  The sport was considered immoral and un-Islamic. (Kite-flying was another sport considered un-Islamic). With the removal of the Taliban has come the revival of buzkashi.  In a country where many earn less than $30 per month, some buzkashi players receive tips in the thousands - for a single goal.

For a much more in-depth look, check out this report from NPR's Sean Carberry,
Becky Pemberton also reported on the sport for the UK's Daily Mail.

Thanks for reading!

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