Buzkashi is the National Sport of Afghanistan and one of the ancient games played in Afghanistan. The steppes' people were skilled riders who could grab a goat or calf from the ground while riding a horse at full gallop. The goal of a player is to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf and then get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle or vat.
Buzkashi game watched by thousands of spectators
ompetition is typically fierce. Prior to the establishment of official rules by the Afghan Olympic Federation the sport was mainly conducted based upon rules such as not whipping a fellow rider intentionally or deliberately knocking him off his horse. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players' whips and boots. The boots usually have high heels that locks into the paddle of the horse to help the rider lean on the side of the horse while trying to pickup the calf. Games can last for several days, and the winning team receives a prize, not necessarily money, as a reward for their win.
A Buzkashi player is called a Chapandaz. It is mainly believed in Afghanistan that a skillful Chapandaz is usually in his forties. This is based on the fact that the nature of the game requires its player to undergo severe physical practice and observation. Similarly horses used in Buzkashi also undergo severe training and due attention. A player doesn't necessarily own the horse. Horses are usually owned by landlords and highly rich people wealthy enough to look after and provide for training facilities for such horses. However a master Chapandaz can choose to select any horse and the owner of the horse usually wants his horse to be ridden by a master Chapandaz as a winning horse also brings pride to the owner.
Game of Buzkashi in Mazari Sharif
The game consists of two main forms: Tudabarai and Qarajai. Tudabarai is considered to be the simpler form of the game. In this version, the goal is simply to grab the calf and move in any direction until clear of the other players. In Qarajai, players must carry the carcass around a flag or marker at one end of the field, then throw it into a scoring circle (the "Circle of Justice") at the other end. The riders will carry a whip, often in their teeth, to fend off opposing horses and riders.
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.
Rules introduced by Afghan Olympic Federation
- The ground has a square layout with each side 400 meters long.
- Each team consists of 10 riders each.
- Only five riders from each team can play in a half.
- The total duration of each half is 45 minutes.
- There is only one 15 minute break between the two halves.
- The game is supervised by a referee.
- Based on the referee's decision a rider can be substituted during the game.
Ban in Afghanistan
Buzkashi is the national sport and a "passion" in Afghanistan where it is often played on Fridays and matches draw thousands of fans. Whitney Azoy notes in his book "Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan:.... (that) leaders are men who can seize control by means foul and fair and then fight off their rivals. The Buzkashi rider does the same"
During the rule of the Taliban regime, Buzkashi was banned in Afghanistan, as the Taliban considered the game immoral. But since the Taliban regime was ousted the game is being played again.