The first edition of the World Nomad Games, currently being held in Kyrgyzstan, have been rocked by scandal as Kazakhstan refused to send a team to compete in kokpar, the fast and furious horseback sport akin to polo but played with a headless goat carcass.
Its absence will be felt at these games as last September Kazakhstan became the first ever Asian champions of the sport when it defeated fierce rivals Kyrgyzstan 4-2 in the final held in Kazakhstan’s snazzy capital Astana.
kazaxia took to twitter to determine why Kazakhstan hadn’t sent a team to the games in Kyrgyzstan. One observer, Edil Baisalov, noted that the Kazakhs “insist on a different set of rules” which they claim were “adopted at the Asian championship in Astana last year”.
The other countries disagreed with this version of events, Baisalov added.
Kokpar, better known as ‘buzkashi’ in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is not a sport traditionally hidebound by rules. In the past kokpar games were a free-for-all that could last for hours.
Now, seeking to appeal to a wider audience and the television market, there have been suggestions that the sport be regulated with two 45-minute halves and restrictions on team sizes.
The version played in Afghanistan has been suggested as an international model with rules developed by the Afghan Olympic Federation. These rules suggest that:
For championship Buzkashi in Kabul, teams are limited to ten riders each. Five players take the field during the first 45 minutes of play; the other five compete during the second period. A field master presides over the match and has the authority to prolong the game and grant permission for a change of riders or horses. The halftime break lasts for 15 minutes.
The World Nomad Games, being held in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, by the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, brings together competitors from countries with a nomadic tradition for a six-day festival of traditional sports. The games culminate on 14 September.
Besides kokpar, the sports include horse races, wrestling on horse back, contact sports based on wrestling, eagle hunting, and the more cerebral ordo, and toguz korgool, a board game related to mankala. For more information on these sports, check out here.