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Buzkashi The Most Dangerous Sport on Earth By Damian Bird Buzkashi is rather like rugby on horseback.  The stuffed calf body that can be seen here being fought over is the ball. Afghan men are famous for their horsemanship.  Horse and rider become one in the bloody battle that is Buzkashi. The game of Buzkashi is controlled and refereed by a pannel of judges and Buzkashi officials. All bets are laid with officials from this panel of judges. There are many traditional ceremonies and practices that take place during a game of Buzkashi. It seems like mayhem to an outsider but makes perfect sense to the Afghan participants. Afghan men prove their standing within their communities by their success in Buzkashi.  Their apperance and the condition of their horses is all important. The padded helmets being used by these Buzkashi warriors are old Russian tank commanders’ hats and would have been used by Russian soldiers going into battle with the Mujahadeen during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. The battle for the stuffed calf can be seen here in the fore ground and the local village consisting of mud built houses can be seen in the background. Buzkashi warriors are sometimes killed on the pitch. Here, a man is resting for a few minutes with a head injury sustained during the game (battle). He resumed play after stemming the flow of bloody from the gash to his head. The Afghan horses are small, nimble and highly agile. The Buzkashi horsemen have the perfect platform to diplay their prowess and strength. Standard issue for Buzkashi horsemen is a small leather whip. When hands on grappling takes place for the calf- carcass -ball this whip is placed between the front teeth. Hence the Buzkashi warriors go into battle with their teeth bared. Falls from horses travelling at 50kph are surprisingly rare during high speed Buzkashi matches.  When they do happen, the Buskashi men tend to get straight back on their horses, except when broken bones make this a physical impossiblity. The objective of the game is to ride alone into the circle at the centre of the pitch with the calf-carcass-ball and without any other players hanging onto it. During the battles for the ball, players have to hang their bodies over the other side of their horses to prevent themselves from being pulled off onto their faces. Here we can see a Buzkashi player trying to get the ball into the circle in the centre of the pitch to claim a victory and a point.  He is pulling his horse’s head to the right to try and turn his horse into the circle. In this case he failed due to the mass of horses pulling up on his right side. The battle is never won and like with the game of rugby all players leave the pitch with their cuts and bruises to recuperate and plan their strategy for their next match. It was horsemen such as these that took on the Russian tanks during the Mujahadeen’s battle to rid Afghanistan from the Russian occupation. The scenes were reminicent of painting of medieval battles, architypal and brimming with the magic of Afghanistan, as yet untouched by tourism due to the obvious inherent dangers of travel within this war torn and beautiful country. The action of Buzkashi would of course make excellent television. However ironically it is the absence of western comercialisation that adds so much to the viceral Afghan experience. The game of Buzkashi moves so quickly that it is difficult to photograph. The stampeeding horses also make it very dangerous to be close to the action on foot. Buzkashi horsemen at the point of full acceleration in persuit of the calf-carcass-ball and personal glory. Afghans treat their horses with great respect and are very close to their animals, however the whip is used during Buzkashi to accelerate the horses with urgency. It is used more to communicate than to punish and causes no injury to the horses. A bet being placed by a Buzkashi warrior. The gentleman with the megaphone in the background is the referee.  He is mounted on horseback for his own protection and to give him the necessary speed and agility to follow the action. The National Sport of Afghanistan