Egg war, football and goat dragging

There is no shortage of games and sports in Afghanistan. The kids play tag and softball or play around with their kites and slingshots. As they grow older, they turn to volleyball, football, card games and chess. Hunting, keeping birds and playing music are also popular pastimes.

One of the more traditional games in Afghanistan, loved by children and adults alike, is the war of eggs. It usually takes place during the Eid celebration (marking the end of the Ramadan) and the New Year festival Nowruz.

To the right, you can read Danish Afghan Tahir Bakhtiary’s personal story about returning to Afghanistan after 18 years abroad, to find that the war of eggs has not changed since his childhood (and nor, unfortunately, has his luck).

Sports as politics

But fun and games are more than just … fun and games. They can also play a political role and strengthen national unity.

That is not news to the Afghans. Particularly in the central and northern regions, local rulers have for several hundred years used the national sport buzkashi (‘goat dragging’) to loosen up political tensions. By sponsoring the players on the field, the various rulers are able to simultaneously demonstrate their own status and live out their aggression against competitors in a controlled manner, spilling only the blood of unfortunate goats.

The Afghan authorities are also very aware of the potential of sports for channelling aggression and creating a sense of community and solidarity. Thus, with massive support from the US, they have invested specifically in ‘sports diplomacy’. Above all, this has meant a renovation of Afghanistan’s national stadium, the Ghazi Stadium, which the Taliban formerly used for public executions. You can read more about this to the right.