Afghanistan 2002 - © Robert W. Kranz


Buskashi, (Goat-Grabbing) - Kabul, Afghanistan
This popular game is played throughout the northern provinces where horse riding is a heritage of the steppe and fleet horses are raised with pride and care. Kunduz, Badakshan, Baghlan, Samangan, Balkh, Jozjan and Faryab each have champion teams
Inpromptu buskashi games are played on the open plains near towns and villages in this area from approximately November through March. They may celebrate a wedding or the birth of a son or they may be organized by ambitious entrepreneurs. Large sums are exchanged as backers bet on the speriority of favourite chapandaz (master players, s. portrait). Such games usually take place on Thursday afternoons and Fridays, weather permitting. More organized games are played on Fridays in the stadiums of the major cities. Usually about twenty to thirty horses and riders play, but sometimes hundreds, even thousands, of horses ride in. The chapandaz from the nucleus while substitute horses mill around the periphery, ready to join in. This is a practical part of their training.
The game is easily described, not easily played. A decapitated calf weighing somewhere in the vincinity of 150 pounds is placed in a circle before the judges. The object of the game is simply topick up the carcass and ride around a specified point, which may be as much as a mile away, and return to deposit it once again in the circle infront of the judges. There are two teams, each of which endeavors to releave the other of their bloody burden.
The tremendous skill and electrifying exitement engendered by daring riders atop glistening horses, sometimes galloping flat out, sometimes rearing with flailing hoofs above an opponent, and even going up onto the spectators stands, make the game irresistibly compelling. Horse and rider train together for years and are idolized as all true champions should be.