The spirit of Afghanistan

The smiling buskashi player
A runner
Young buskashi player
Afghan faces
Afghan faces
Rough and rumble
Ready to fight
On the run
Afghan face
Goat dragging
Afghan faces
Taking the cash
Get the goat
Drawing the line
On guard
On the run
Look at those faces!
The magnificent
Ready... set...
Singer at a buskashi game
Buskashi players
Buskashi players
The 'ball'
Buskashi players
Hung like a horse

Although planning to do another hash today, which was going to be less interesting anyway, due to last week's killing and the resulting increased security, we ended up enjoying a buzkashi game. A free translation of buzkashi is something like 'goat dragging', and that's what it is.
You get a bunch of players, sturdy men on horseback, who try to drag a dead goat, first around a flag, on the far end of a field about the size of a soccer pitch, before dragging it back and dropping it inside a circle. Not many more rules exist and although this was a game of two teams, apparently, the more interesting games are played between many individuals.

Being one of the first games this season, it was obvious the players were practicing more than actually playing hard. That is, until after the first intermission, when the stakes were raised, meaning more money for each point made, and more violence broke out on the field.
Each time two points were scored by dropping the dead goat in the circle, running with the goat around the flag only gets you one point, the winning player would have his horse walk up to the stands and receive money from particular spectators.

Apparently, nowadays, the games are staged between groups being run by the country's major warlords, managing and paying complete teams of buzkashi players being rather expensive in the first place.

The biggest and most spectacular game is set for next Monday, in Mazar-e-Sharif, during the celebration of the new year.
It is said that the game is played much more in the north of the country and that, because it is in effect the Northern Alliance who has the most control of Kabul, they are now also pushing to get it off the grounds here in the capital.
However, judging from the number of spectators, they still have a while to go since in total, maybe some 300 people attended, of which half or so were foreigners, many of which were arrogant foreign military.

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The game was introduced by the Mongolians and if you're aware of the 'three manly sports' they still celebrate in Mongolia, it is no surprise this morphed into buzkashi somewhere down the line. Considering the dead goat is occasionally weighed down to a scary 100 kilograms, it should also not be a surprise that the two manly games of wrestling and horse racing did come together in one sport. Makes you wonder how the archery, the third manly sport, originally fit in.

In the evening, Jagoda's people at the Norwegian Refugee Council threw a party but had given everyone wrong directions, meaning much less people showed up as planned. On the positive side, that left more food and drinks for the people who did show up and somewhat of a private show when Jagoda and some Italian chick decided to dance on the table near the end of the evening.