Get your goat: fun and games in Afghanistan

14 Apr

Holy cow! PETA and the Taliban may actually have something in common. Let me explain…

Who wants to come outside to play today?

Yesterday I was reading the Wall Street Journal and came across an article that was so strange that I thought it was surely the newspaper equivalent to a trap street. A trap street is a deliberately placed fictional roadway planted on a map or atlas that will protect the publisher from copyright violations and unauthorized reproductions by unseemly cartographers. In theory anyway.

For as much as we now know about Afghanistan’s government and their social tribulations, what do you really know about them culturally aside from women wear burqas, men wear bushy mustaches and they all throw rocks? Oh, like, for instance do you know what their national sport is? It’s called buzkashi. Well, it’s not exactly polo, but it’s eerily similar. That’s not true. Yes, both games are played on horseback. In polo, the goal is to get a small white ball through a goal using a mallet. In buzkashi, the player’s objective is to pick up and then heave a decapitated goat over a goal line and into “the circle of justice” without the aid of straps. Or something akin to that. See? Similar, but not the same.

Draw that circle wide

Polo can be traced as far back as 100 B.C. in Persia. While the rules of polo have been static since the first official club was formed in 1800s, buzkashi continues to evolve a bit. A long time ago it was played on camels. The game likely began as a way to train villagers to go repossess stolen livestock from marauding neighbors. Ride in, get your goat back, wreak some havoc and go home. Buzkashi tournaments can go on for days and a goat carcass can get pretty roughed up and start falling apart. That’s no fun! Typically, games are now played with a dead calf that’s been beheaded, kneecapped, drained of its cow juices, disemboweled, soaked in water for a day and then stuffed with sand. It toughens it up and then they can play with it longer that way. Can you imagine? I can’t even go there. Women are not allowed to attend games, but really, what woman would even want to? Gag.

They should make like King David and cut the thing in two

Oh, and “winner, winner chicken dinner”? Not so much. It’s a very tenderized goat or calf stew cooked up and served to poor people living near the buzkashi field. The winning horseman gets turbans, cash and rifles. Great. Just what I’m sure the community and world at large need for him to have.

Aaw, chicks DO dig buzshaki

When the Taliban was large and in charge, buzkashi was forbidden because they felt that it was an immoral game. I don’t know about immoral, but it sounds gross as hell. And here’s where the Taliban and PETA can agree to hold hands and do a little light petting. While the Afghan Buzkashi Federation desires to apply for buzkashi to become an Olympic sport, PETA…like the Taliban… wants it banned. They’ve taken care of fox hunting in England and are working on demonizing bullfighting in Spain.

Clearly, the Taliban didn’t succeed in squashing buzkashi for good. Could PETA really be more powerful and far reaching than the Taliban? In the immortal words of 80s super-group Asia, “Only time will tell”.


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