Buzkashi is part of the polo family – an Afghani ancestor of the modern game – although the chapandazan (players) prefer to use a goat carcass and not a ball. Every match is dense with local political significance and scores between war loards settled, refreshed and created anew. Not even the Taliban dared to ban it.

Earlier this year the director of buzkashi on the Afghani Olympic Committee (no, I wasn’t aware it existed either) announced that he was seeking Western investors to help bring the game to London. The Independent reported:

During the 1980s the Soviet-backed government tried to increase regulation in the hope that some of its popularity would brush off. In his masterful study of buzkashi, anthropologist Whitney Azoy recorded the story of Habib, a legendary chapandaz whose skill on the field won him esteem far exceeding his lowly background. Pressured by communists to denounce the anti-Soviet resistance, Habib later tried to atone by smuggling food to the rebels. He was almost killed in an air strike, the story goes, but his horse, mortally wounded, carried him to shelter before dying.

The account is typical of the tales that have grown up around buzkashi. The sport is a vestige of the times when everyone between the Black Sea and China lived on horseback. Hollywood has romanticised it on more than one occasion, most famously in Rambo III, when mujahideen fighters invite John Rambo to play with them before Soviet gunships break up the game.

Don’t you think we need to see this at the Hurlingham?

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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