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Asia Holds First 'Kokpar' Championship

The first Asian championship in kokpar, or buzkashi, began in the Kazakh capital Astana on September 11. Teams from Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan will compete in the tournament, which concludes on September 15. The sport -- which is often compared to polo -- is particularly popular among Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Afghans in Central and South Asia. Both polo and kokpar/buzkashi feature rough play by people on horseback who are propelling an object toward a goal. But while polo is played with a ball, kokpar/buzkashi is played with a headless goat. Polo matches are played for fixed periods totaling about an hour; traditional kokpar/buzkashi can go for days, but in its regulated tournament version also has a limited match time. (12 PHOTOS)

Horsemen from the Kazakh team after a match at the first Asian kokpar championship in Astana on September 12, 2013.
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Horsemen from the Kazakh team after a match at the first Asian kokpar championship in Astana on September 12, 2013.

A rider from the Kazkah team drops the headless goat into the container for a score against Russia during the first Asian kokpar championship.
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A rider from the Kazkah team drops the headless goat into the container for a score against Russia during the first Asian kokpar championship.

The team from Kazakhstan line up before a game during the first Asian kokpar championship in Astana.
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The team from Kazakhstan line up before a game during the first Asian kokpar championship in Astana.

The "ball" -- a beheaded goat -- is placed in the center of the field before a game.
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The "ball" -- a beheaded goat -- is placed in the center of the field before a game.

A rider from Russia's team gallops with the goat's carcass during a match against Kazakhstan.
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A rider from Russia's team gallops with the goat's carcass during a match against Kazakhstan.

Russian riders (in white) score against Mongolia during the tourney.
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Russian riders (in white) score against Mongolia during the tourney.

A rider from Tajikistan prepares for a game during the championships in Astana on September 12, 2013.
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A rider from Tajikistan prepares for a game during the championships in Astana on September 12, 2013.

A Kazakh team member drags the goat during the match against Russia.
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A Kazakh team member drags the goat during the match against Russia.

Riders from the teams from Kazakhstan (blue) and Tajikistan (yellow) compete in a match in Astana on September 11, 2013.
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Riders from the teams from Kazakhstan (blue) and Tajikistan (yellow) compete in a match in Astana on September 11, 2013.

Riders from the Turkish team parade before the crowd at the opening ceremony of the kokpar championships in Astana.
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Riders from the Turkish team parade before the crowd at the opening ceremony of the kokpar championships in Astana.

A rider performs for the crowd during a show highlighting the skills of the kokpar riders.
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A rider performs for the crowd during a show highlighting the skills of the kokpar riders.

Riders from several of the nine teams competing in the kokpar championships parade on the field during the opening ceremony of the kokpar championship in Astana on September 11, 2013.
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Riders from several of the nine teams competing in the kokpar championships parade on the field during the opening ceremony of the kokpar championship in Astana on September 11, 2013.

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