Of Football, Kites and Goats: Sports in Afghanistan

by Katrina Forsythe, dramaturg

The Lions of Khorasan made it to the SAFF Final match in 2011.

Nasim and Yasir in A Second Birth play soccer with their friends—though they follow the European tradition of calling it football. While the Afghani people love their football (the national team was founded in 1922—just three years after they became an independent nation), there are other sports that are, perhaps, less familiar to an American audience.

Kite Flying

Thanks to the book The Kite Runner, we know that Afghani children like to fly kites. But this is not Mary Poppins’ kite flying. The traditional kite in Afghanistan is huge—four to six feet wide—and the string is enhanced with razors and broken glass. The point of the game is to cut the string of the other kites in the air. This means you have to get your kite up quick, and get it close to the other players’ kites without losing your own string. If you can cut down someone else’s kite, it belongs to you.

image courtesy of ourjourneytosmile.com

Buzkashi

My favorite Afghani sport is called goat catching or Buzkashi. Imagine a no-holds-barred American football game on horses with a goat carcass instead of a ball, and you have a vague idea of what buzkashi is. Both horses and riders train for years before they ever make it into an actual match, and broken limbs are quite common. The dead goat rarely makes it through the game in one piece.