A group of athletes from different parts of the country gathered in Herat on Thursday to resume the buzkashi competitions in the province that ceased six years ago.
Buzkashi – which literally means goat-dragging in Persian – is the Central Asian sport in which horse-mounted players attempt to drag a goat or calf carcass toward a goal. It is the national sport of Afghanistan, although it was banned under the Taliban regime.
Traditionally, games could last for several days, but in its more regulated tournament version, it has a limited match time.
The buzkashi trainers who have gone to Herat from the northern provinces – the birthplace of the sport – were warmly welcomed by the local residents.
Over 200 athletes attended the opening of a tournament on Thursday, which will continue for a week.
“The buzkashi grounds (in Herat) was made four years ago and the federation was also established at that time. So far, we have over 200 horses,” said the head of Herat’s buzkashi Federation, Bashir Ahmad Ahrari.
“The horse riders from the northern provinces have been in Herat over the past week, and will continue horse riding until spring,” a buzkashi trainer Mohammad Aref Hamidi said.
Buzkashi players said their efforts are underway to maintain the ancient sport in each and every part of the country and make it a symbol of unity among Afghans.
“We should be supported by the government and by the (buzkashi) federation because it is a national sport,” buzkashi player Mohammad Zarif said.
“The government should provide facilities in order to improve the sport,” buzkashi player Nasir Ahmad said.
“The visit of horse riders to different provinces should continue so that a bond of friendship is established. It will be so nice,” buzkashi player Ahmad said.
A large number of Herat residents were watching the opening match in Enjil district, Herat.
“Buzkashi is a nice game. It is good entertainment for the youth,” Herat resident Dil Aqa Rahimi said.
“Any sports are nice but this one is very good,” Herat resident Fahim Rahimi said.