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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 18:00 GMT
Kabul crowds flock to 'goat polo'
Horsemen play Buzkashi
Buzkashi is popular throughout Central Asia
By Ian MacWilliam in Kabul

As Afghanistan's new government finds its feet, Kabul residents are putting the rigours of life under the Taleban behind them.

The spectators sometimes join in

The Islamic militia banned many forms of entertainment, so the first public match of the national sport in many months pulled a huge crowd.

But it is a sport with a difference.

Buzkashi, as it is known, is played on horseback with two teams fighting for control of the headless carcass of a goat or a calf.

And it is not a game for the faint hearted.

Thousands of spectators

Buzkashi can best be likened to polo, but with a headless goat instead of a ball.

Horsemen fight for the goat's carcass and race across the field to carry it around a goal post without losing it to the other team.

Popular throughout the mountain areas of Central Asia, it is a rough game for horse and rider alike, but very much in the spirit of Afghan life and politics.

Spectators crowding the field join in too, scattering as the horses break free from a scrum to thunder down the field.

This match between teams from Balkh and Parwan provinces was played in a large open space next to Kabul's Ghazi stadium.

Banned sports

Until recently the Taleban used it to carry out public executions and judicial mutilations ordered under Islamic Sharia law.

Buzkashi was rarely played under the Taleban, who banned most sporting events, including football matches played in western-style shorts.

Several thousand men turned out for this first buzkashi game of the new government, played against the backdrop of the Hindu Kush and the snow-capped mountains of Paghman.

After a few hours' hard riding, with dust from the horses' hooves filling the clear winter air, the team from Parwan won the day.

See also:

28 Dec 01 | South Asia
US bombers 'hit Taleban hideout'
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kabul family saga
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