12 images Created 14 Feb 2012

Buzkashi is a traditional Central Asian team sport played on horseback and it is a national sport of Afghanistan. Players and horses are often sponsored by powerful men or rivals for political power. Disputes on the buzkashi field sometimes reflect actual disputes in the real world and the person who can calm the disputes may gain off the field, too. The object of the game is to get control of a goat or calf carcass and bring it to the scoring area.

Games are usually played on Friday and the particular game depicted in the photos was sponsored by the Turkish military. It occurred on a pitch located behind the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and was of the Qaraji form of buzakshi. In this version of the game, a headless calf carcass is placed in the center of a circle and surrounded by the players of two opposing teams. The calf is normally beheaded and disemboweled and has its limbs cut off at the knees. It is then soaked in cold water for 24 hours before play to toughen it. Players must carry the carcass around a flag or marker at one end of the field, then throw it into a scoring circle (the "Circle of Justice") at the other end. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players' whips and boots.

Rivals often form temporary alliances to prevent the strongest players from gaining control. Cultural anthropologist Dr. G. Whitney Azoy is quoted in an ABC News article from August 30, 2002 as saying that buzkashi "is a metaphor for Afghan politics in the sense that people in Afghanistan are always trying to gain control." On this particular Friday morning, however, the game was played more for the amusement of the mainly international spectators and it gave the Turkish military a chance to dress up in historic battle costumes.
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