Buzkashi- Afghanistan's ultimate passion(graphic)

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  1. bengalraider

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    High on his horse: Banned under the Taliban, the popular Afghan sport of buzkashi is more than just a game -- it's a metaphor for the cultural and power relationships among Afghans. The rules are simple: Two teams vie to carry a headless goat (or calf) around corner posts and back into the center circle in which it was first placed, all the while steering their horses away from the whips of the opposing side. Above, an Afghan rider rears his horse during a buzkashi game in Kabul on April 5, 2008.


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  3. bengalraider

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    Making his mark: A man uses lime to draw a circle on buzkashi grounds in Mazar-e-Sharif on March 21, 2009. Believed to have been introduced by the Mongol hordes hundreds of years ago, buzkashi draws on the long history of Afghan horsemanship. The most skilled riders, chapandaz, are local legends, but their mounts may be revered even more. The popular Afghan saying, "Better a poor rider on a good horse than a good rider on a poor horse," demonstrates the respect riders give their Tatar and Habash steeds.

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    Getting his opponents' goat: Buzkashi is an inherently political game, reflecting northern Afghan social customs. Powerful khans sponsor riders and teams, with major implications. G. Whitney Azoy, author of Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan, notes, "When his horses and riders win, the khan's name is said to rise. And reputation is the true currency of Afghan politics." More relevant for U.S. policy: If a buzkashi game devolves into chaos, riders will switch allegiances, joining a game hosted by a different khan. Above, a horseman carries a goat in a game on the outskirts of Kabul on Dec. 4, 2009.

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    Horseplay: Men play buzkashi, which means "goat grabbing," outside Kabul on Dec. 4, 2009. Considered impure and immoral under the strict social codes of the Taliban, buzkashi is nonetheless seen by many as a quintessentially Afghan sport. Haji Abdul Rashid, head of the national Buzkashi Federation, believes "Buzkashi is Afghanistan" and wants to see corporate sponsorship (Barclays Buzkashi Premier League?) and the sport included in the Olympic Games.

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    Pulling his weight: A horseman, with his whip between this teeth, lugs a goat carcass, which can weigh as much as 100 pounds, with one hand as he gallops toward the goal on Dec. 4, 2009, near Kabul. Although buzkashi can be played both as a team sport and as a free-for-all, the game is, at its foundation, individualistic. For competing riders, it is all about gaining control in a frenzied situation and showing off one's strength, horsemanship, and bravery. This individual competition is also a metaphor for the warlords who are constantly jockeying for political control in a country long unenthused with the idea of being governed by a central authority .


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    Goooooooal! A rider scores by dropping the goat carcass into the circle during a game in Kabul on Jan. 1. Because riders are often sponsored by the most powerful members of a region, the game and its outcome can often mirror the balance of power between warlords, cities, or regions. Real-life disputes can be played out on the field and, hopefully, resolved .


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    Keeping watch: For Afghans, buzkashi also symbolizes the chaotic aspects of Afghan life. "It is a game, but it's more than a game for the Afghans," G. Whitney Azoy told ABC News. "To deny that Afghan society has this explosive, anarchic quality is to kid yourself, as we have all learned." For those who come and watch the matches, buzkashi is an outlet for some of that energy. Above, Afghan men eat and enjoy a match on Dec. 4, 2009, outside Kabul.


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    Dragged out: Unlike most Western sports, which can last three or four hours, buzkashi matches can last up to a week (though ESPN argues that the NFL and buzkashi are very similar). It is a subtle reminder that Afghans operate on a different timetable. Historically, Afghans have fought invaders with a steadfast tenacity (i.e., the British and the Soviets). After the United States invaded Afghanistan with NATO in tow, it became clear that the idea that a stable Afghan government could be set up quickly was naive. The Afghans probably had few illusions. Above, spectators watch a match while a goat carcass lies in front of them in Kabul on Dec. 4, 2009.


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    Watch your back: Above, riders line up during a buzkashi match on the outskirts of Kabul on Dec. 4, 2009. Afghans take great pride in the game they call their own. It has survived both the Taliban regime, when it was outlawed, and more than eight years of war under a U.S. occupation. Even President Hamid Karzai owns nine horses. And, he probably gets the metaphor: Afghan politics can be like buzkashi, just minus the horses and goats.


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