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Traditional Afghan game returns to Kabul

In the traditional Afghan game of buzkashi, two teams fight over the body of a headless goat or calf.  

From John Vause

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- When Afghans play, they play fast, furious and hard.

Evidence can be found in the traditional Afghan game of buzkashi, which recently resurfaced in the capital, Kabul, after being outlawed by the Taliban.

In a city deprived of fun for so many years, a recent afternoon match drew thousands to a dusty field.

"During the Taliban, people forgot about buzkashi because of their problems," enthusiast Mohammed Shafi said. "Today we are all feeling happy."

CNN's John Vause reports that the traditional Afghan game of buzkashi is bringing a sense of fun back to Kabul (December 28)

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There are virtually no rules in buzkashi, the literal translation of which is "take away the goat." Both sides fight over the body of a headless goat -- for this game they used a calf -- and to score a point, they have to carry it around a flag and then drop it in a circle.

Armed with whips, players on horseback beat whoever has the calf's body while his teammates try to run defense. Whoever scores the point wins not only admiration but also hard cash.

It's a chaotic and confusing game, especially for those who crowd the field and must dodge the galloping horses.

It's also one sport where spectators really don't want front-row seats. There are no boundary lines, and the horses often charge into the crowd. In fact, a fan has a better chance of getting injured than a player on the field.

Participants in the recent game were players from Perwan, a nearby province, and the Kabul National Olympic team (no one knows where the Olympic part originated.)

The match ended in a 9-9 draw, but for the British ambassador, a devoted buzkashi fan who has been in and out of Afghanistan for more than 20 years, it was more than just a game.

"It reflects the spirit of the people here," said Andrew Tesoriere, the British representative in Kabul. "I was thinking of sending a short cable or telegram to the Hurlingham Polo Club to see if they wanted to show their skills."

It's unlikely buzkashi will ever catch on anywhere else. After all, they've been playing it in this part of the world for 500 years.




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