Yes, I thought that would grab your attention. In 2008, Guardsman Christopher Dean, an avid supporter of the Cornish Pirates, asked them if they would be willing to donate their old rugby kits.
At the time, Dean was serving in Afghanistan and needed rugby shirts for the locals to wear during their games. The Cornish Pirates happily complied and collected old rugby shirts. They sent them to Kabul, where Dean distributed them along the locals in and around town.
I’m not sure if they were used for rugby games or for one of the other, similar varieties, one of which is called sheep rugby, a term coined by the Society for Creative Anachronism.
There are many local varieties of this game, which is known as “buzkashi”. It has been described as a cross between rugby and polo. In the game, the ball is substituted for the carcass of a goat or a calf, or indeed, a sheep. It’s head and lower legs are cut off, and in the case of a goat being used, the carcass is first soaked in water for a day so that it won’t fall apart during the game. In some cases, sand is put in the abdomen of the animal to weigh it down.
The object of the game is to grab the animal while riding past it on horseback. The player then tries to clear himself of his opponents, after which he tries to lob the poor dead creature into a barrel or into a circle marked as the goal.
Often whips are used against the opponents as well. It certainly is a big difference between the game rugby fans love and know today. We would definitely not wish to see the All Blacks playing sheep rugby as we have fondly called it. But how did the game of rugby as we know it come to Afghanistan?
History of Rugby in Afghanistan
It was often invading armies who played rugby in Afghanistan. First introduced by British troops by way of British India, the game virtually died out after the English left Asia. On their way home, they took with them the game we now know as polo. Cultural exchange is wonderful, isn’t it?
Recent times have seen an increase in rugby playing in Afghanistan. French, English, Canadian, and also American troops have been playing the game. So don’t throw out your old rugby kits just yet; you might just get a request to donate them for a good cause.