Ancient Afghan Sport Still Played

The national sport of Afghanistan is Buzkashi which literally means “goat grabbing”.

It is believed that this fierce game was started by Ghengis Khan (Mongol emperor) and his Turkic-Mongol tribes in the 13th century, and has been played since. It is mostly played in the northern provinces of Afghanistan such as Maimana and Mazar-e-Sharif.

The purpose of this ancient game is to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf from the ground and then get it clear of the opponents and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle. The winners are awarded Chapan (Specially designed coats made from silk), carpets, money, etc.

The carcass is soaked in cold water for over 24 hours before the game takes place. This enables the carcass to gain more weight and withstand wear and tear as hundreds of Chapandaz (Professional riders) compete independently during the game.

In Buzkashi, the players are skilled riders. These horsemen and horses undergo extensive training for years. The horses learn different techniques required for the game as well as different moves of their riders. They are very loyal to their riders and can stop abruptly to grab the goat when needed.

A victorious Chapandaz earns great respect among his tribe and considered to be an honoured member of Afghan society. When the Taliban took control of the country, Buzkashi was banned. However, since the regime has been ousted, Buzkashi has regained its place as the national passion of Afghanistan.

BUZKASHI AT MAZAR-E-SHARIF