Friday, December 11, 2009
THE AFGHAN GAME
If you want to understand the Afghan then look no further than Buzkashi. Not my words but still relevant.
The national Afghan game is called Buzkashi. The translation of the name is "goat pulling".
It involves two teams of 15 setting off from a single point on horseback. They race towards a dead goat placed in a circle. The goat is grabbed and they gallop towards a second marker. The teams must get the goat round the marker and back into the circle.
The game is violent. The peculiarly Afghan element is that once a team has the upper hand the goat will often be stolen by players within that team in order to get the final glory.
The game is played in the barren desert with distances of over a mile between the markers and the circle.
I have asked our interpreters whether Buskashi is played in this area. The answer is yes but that was before the fighting.
The cultural point is that, faced with a common enemy the Afghans unite, but quickly argue amongst themselves when the external catalyst is gone.
Perhaps our answer to this is cricket, where the game is played over five days, a good tea is very important, and the most likely result is a draw.
Cricket is also played in Afghanistan courtesy of our imperialist past. We have had several six-a-side games in the FOB. Our interpreters are generally from Kabul and are archetypically good slow bowlers or wristy batsmen with a good eye.
The playing surface leaves a little to be desired, which makes the occasional LBW hotly contested.
The common ground is found in football for which we have enough room for a small five-a-side pitch.
Again the surface is a bit dodgy. But after work, if there is still enough light, I will often find a group of Tiger Team Afghan troops mixed with Riflemen, interpreters, and our locally employed civilians enjoying a kick about that more often than not turns into an international friendly.
Sport doing its bit to turn colleagues into friends.