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In Pictures: Buzkashi, Afghanistan's 'game of unity'

04 Apr 2020 Al Jazeera

Thousands of Afghans from across the conflict-ridden country travelled to the capital, Kabul, last month to attend a traditional game that celebrates their cultural heritage.

"I am not supporting any team, I am here to cheer for all of them. They are all our brothers," said Ghousuddin, who travelled more than 300 kilometres from the northern province of Samangan to attend his first buzkashi league game, an Afghan sport played on horses, similar to polo.

"This is a game of unity and we hope it will bring peace to our troubled nation," the 51-year-old told Al Jazeera.

However, the game, inaugurated on March 7 in a grand ceremony at Ghazi Stadium, was cancelled after the first day of the league, due to the coronavirus crisis that has seen the death of 50,000 people worldwide.

In Afghanistan, at least 273 people have been infected with the virus and six people have died so far.

The players, known as chapandaaz in the Dari language, some of whom travelled from remote parts of the country, were competing for the championship title and the chance to represent Afghanistan in international tournaments to be held in Central Asia, where buzkashi is a popular sport.

The game involves eight players on horseback from each team who wrestle to get hold of a goat carcass.

The large attendance and wide viewership in the war-torn country of 30 million people is testament to the Afghan people's longing for peace and relief.

An agreement between the US, which invaded the country in 2001, and the Taliban armed group signed last month has raised hopes for peace. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the armed rebellion launched by the Taliban after it was toppled from power by US-led foreign troops.

"People of Afghanistan have suffered a lot in the last few decades. We can only hope that such events can bring a little happiness and few smiles to them," Saifuddin Tandoghan, the head of Afghanistan Buzkashi Federation, told Al Jazeera. 

"This game has been in our country for more than thousand years. It is a legacy that has been handed down through generations,” he said. Tandoghan has played buzkashi for 37 years and was a national champion.

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