Central Asian sport in which horse-mounted players attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal. Buzkashi is the national sport and a “passion” in Afghanistan where it is often played on Fridays and matches draw thousands of fans. Traditionally, games could last for several days, but in its more regulated tournament version, it has a limited match time.
Competition is typically fierce. Prior to the establishment of official rules by the Afghan Olympic Federation, the sport was mainly conducted based upon rules such as not whipping a fellow rider intentionally or deliberately knocking him off his horse. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players’ whips and boots. For example, riders in the former Soviet Union often wear salvaged Soviet tank helmets for protection. The boots usually have high heels that lock into the saddle of the horse to help the rider lean on the side of the horse while trying to pick up the goat. Games can last for several days, and the winning team receives a prize, not necessarily money, as a reward for their win. Top players, such as Aziz Ahmad, are often sponsored by wealthy Afghans.
A buzkashi player is called a Chapandaz; it is mainly believed in Afghanistan that a skillful Chapandaz is usually in his forties. This is based on the fact that the nature of the game requires its player to undergo severe physical practice and observation. Similarly horses used in buzkashi also undergo severe training and due attention. A player does not necessarily own the horse. Horses are usually owned by landlords and highly rich people wealthy enough to look after and provide for training facilities for such horses. However a master Chapandaz can choose to select any horse and the owner of the horse usually wants his horse to be ridden by a master Chapandaz as a winning horse also brings pride to the owner.
The game consists of two main forms: Tudabarai and Qarajai. Tudabarai is considered to be the simpler form of the game. In this version, the goal is simply to grab the goat and move in any direction until clear of the other players. In Qarajai, 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. The riders will carry a whip to fend off opposing horses and riders. When not in use - e.g. because the rider needs both hands to steer the horse and secure the carcass - the whip is typically carried in the teeth.
The calf in a buzkashi game is normally beheaded and disemboweled and has 2 limbs cut off. It is then soaked in cold water for 24 hours before play to toughen it. Occasionally sand is packed into the carcass to give it extra weight. Though a goat is used when no calf is available, a calf is less likely to disintegrate during the game. While players may not strap the calf to their bodies or saddles, it is acceptable - and common practice - to wedge the calf under one leg in order to free up the hands.