Not for the faint-hearted, Taliban embrace Buzkashi

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KABUL: The host roared over the public address system as a lone rider separated from a ruckus of nags and tripped towards a chalk circle drawn in the middle of a muddy field in the Afghan capital.

Despite being pursued by what appeared to be a cavalry charge, the rider ditched his “ prize” in the circle and raised an arm in triumph.

Kandahar had taken the lead against Kunduz in Sunday’s grand final of Afgha­nistan’s public Buzkashi crowns.

Banned as “ immoral” when the Taliban first ruled from 1996 to 2001, the Islamists have embraced Buzkashi since returning to power in August, and the winning platoon hails from their heartland despite it having no real tradition of the sport.

“ Unfortunately, Buzkashi wasn’t allowed preliminarily and was only played in businesses where the Taliban did n’t rule,” Qais Hassan, the proprietor of the winning Kandahar platoon, said.

“ Moment, luckily, Buzkashi isn’t only being played all over Afghanistan, but the government, the Islamic Emirate, is organising this competition.”

The sport is both spectacular and violent — a lot like the country, numerous Afghans are quick to tell you — and steeped in history.

Two brigades with six horsewomen a side fight for possession of, traditionally, a guillotined beast corpse — Buzkashi means “ dragging the scapegoat” in Persian — with the end of dropping it into the “ circle of verity”.

It has been played for centuries in Central Asia, with slight variations from country to country.

These days a 30-kilogram stuffed leather bag suggesting a corpse is used rather of the real thing, but the chops needed to contend remain the same.

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