The game of Buzkashi, literally translated as ‘goat grabbing’ has its roots in Afghan antiquity. The game is very exciting and the Afghans take pride in playing it. Whenever the game of Buzkashi is on, the town or village comes to standstill, for all the residents flock to enjoy the game. Buzkashi is also considered the national sport of Afghanistan.
Headless carcass of calf or goat is kept in the center of a field. Players of two opposing teams try to get hold of the carcass and carry it to the goal area. This is not a simple task and requires great skills. Novice players cannot even get close to the carcass. The game continues until a team is announced the winner. Winner of the match receives prizes ranging from money, fine turbans and clothes.
Usually, there are ten to twelve players with each team. They are excessively covered with heavy clothes, meant for protection. They wear a long leather coat which has fur attached. They also wear a hat made of fur.
Players who have acquired high skills in Buzkashi are called chapandaz. Only after undergoing long period of difficult training, one can become a chapandaz. Good chapandazs are usually aged more than forty.
A mountain goat or calf is used as the ball. The head and entrails are removed, and legs are cut off at the knee. The carcass is soaked in cold water for 24 hours to harden it.
The players use a short raw hide whip. When not in use, the whip is held between the teeth.
Horses are specially trained for the game of Buzkashi. These horses are huge, both in height and bulk. The horse waits patiently if the riders fells down from its back or dismounts. As soon as the horseman has hold of the carcass of the goat, the horse gallops to the goal area with terrific speed. The horses are trained to perform under excessive strains. Trained Buzkashi horses are considered valuable commodity in Afghanistan. They enjoy the game as much as the Afghanis. Horses have to be trained for five years before ever making it to the playing field.
Unwritten rules of the game lay out that no player can hit the another player on hand to capture the ‘ball’. Carcass cannot be tied to the saddle. Tripping an opponent by using the rope is also not allowed.
It is believed that Buzkashi began in Afghanistan with the arrival of Turkic-Mongol people from steppes. They domesticated horses and used them for riding, carrying loads and hunting animals. Particularly they were fond of hunting mountain goats while riding their horses. Gradually it became a regular and popular game in the region.
After the game of Buzkashi, a horse race is arranged. It is known as ‘paiga’. However, the horses used in the race are different from that of Buzkashi. These horses are not saddled.
Both the players and spectators in Buzkashi get very excited. Due to hectic nerves, they don’t mind bumping, hitting or jarring opponents. The Afghans put very high stakes in the game. Most of them continue playing the game with cracked ribs and broken limbs. The players prefer to return home stained with blood, posing as brave, than to return safe and sound, and look coward.