Imagine: You’re standing in a large crowd of people, all cheering and screaming. You can’t quite make out what’s going on, but you can tell you’re looking at an open field and that fifty or so men on horseback are riding alongside the crowd of exuberant spectators who shout louder as they pass. Then, all at once, the mass of people shifts as a few horses break the boundary between field and audience for a moment; they fight over something before returning to the field, where one man and his horse break ahead from the pack. The two turn sharply, circling a flag on the field. The rider hoists a goat corpse above his head and throws it to the ground before him. The crowd erupts into applause and rushes onto the field. This man, ostensibly the winner, is awarded piles of money, a new horse, jewelry, and a cache of Russian assault rifles.
It’s not a fever dream, it’s Buzkashi, and it’s Afghanistan’s national sport.
I wrote, recorded, and edited the bulk of this podcast nearly a year ago, and until now it’s been sitting useless on my computer. I’d spent the better part of the past year arguing with myself over its quality and whether or not it was worth publishing. Months later, I figure it’s worth a shot. You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?
While I’ve written and recorded more pieces since, this is the first and only podcast I’ve completed start-to-finish. If you listen through and have any thoughts, questions, or criticism to share with me, I can be found @bengrapevine on Twitter. Comments here should work too.
- “Buzkashi” in Jalalagood: http://www.jalalagood.com/2011/03/buzkashi/
- “Rider in the Storm” in ESPN Magazine: http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/6944843/afghanistan-national-sport-buzkashi-evolves-post-9-11-world-espn-magazine
- “Afghanistan’s National Sport Involves Carrying A Dead Goat Into A Goal While Riding a Horse” in Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/afghanistan-national-sport-2012-4
- “Buzkashi: Like Polo, But With A Headless Goat” by NPR: https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=308952387
Since I recorded and produced this piece, Business Insider published a new article on the decline of Buzkashi in Pakistan. The article covers modern Buzkashi outside of Afghanistan through sources in Pakistan and China’s western Xinjiang region. It’s a great, short read and it can be found here.
Thanks for listening!