February 12, 2015] A sport not seen in the United States or most of the West is called Buzkashi; literally “goat dragging” in the Persian language; truly a manly sport. It’s a Central Asian sport where horse-mounted players attempt to drag a goat or calf carcass toward a goal. The goal is to win and that means just about anything goes … such has been the most valued goal of civilizations throughout history.
Here at theLeaderMaker.com we regularly discuss how sports can teach us lessons in what people like and what leaders do. Buzkashi teaches us of the importance of strength, endurance, aggressiveness, and most critically of good old-fashioned teamwork to win. Buzkashi has been called “the most dangerous game in the world” – a single game can last days. These are not just what people from Afghanistan like, these are the attributes that Americans also love.
Not to be surprised, but a version of Buzkashi was once played in the United States in the 1940s. In the U.S. version a ball was used but the other “guidelines” were about the same. Whenever a player reached down from his horse to grab the ball, it was common for opposing players to unseat the player or grab and shove him.
Whitney Azoy in his book on the Buzkashi sport draws a parallel when he says that Afghan leaders “are men who can seize control by means foul and fair and then fight off their rivals. The Buzkashi rider does the same.” After 9-11, U.S. Special Forces played Buzkashi matches to build rapport with the locals.
Certainly a manly sport, Buzkashi is tough and brutish with roots back in the 13th century.1 The sport is so attractive to Americans that it has been featured in films such as The Horsemen (1971) starring Omar Sharif and Jack Palance and in several books such as The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry in 2008. Playing Buzkashi means you are a man by either historical or modern standards. Guess that I will have to have it on my bucket list.
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