Kokboru in Kyrgyzstan

by Yasmin Steurer (Austria)

The last thing I expected Kyrgyzstan

The lush green mountains seem to be endless, every now and then white yurts appear on the horizon. Wild flowers cover the grass where nomadic horses get tamed as everyone is completely focused on the actions in front of them. The local woman and their young children gather in a safe distance as well as the travelers who stopped their journeys at the picturesque Song Köl Lake region in Kyrgyzstan. All of them escaped their warm yurts and walked along the fresh meadows to be part of the local attraction. - Kokboru also known as Goat Polo It's easy to forget your surrounding while you're been captured by following the rules of the game. In Goat polo the ball is replaced by a headless dead goat that gets passed from one player to the next one. There are no sticks, no kind of safety protection for the players nor the horses, not even a single helmet. In Kyrgyzstan, the team consists of young boys as well as their fathers keeping the tradition alive. During the short summer months the nomadic families move to the lake, erect their yurts and let their horses roam free. Everyone has their tasks during the day, the kids help their mother with cooking and keeping the yurt warm as the nights get brutally cold. The women gather together to cook and also brew the locals delicacy fermented mare's milk as the men spend their days with the horses. Their lives are simple; they gather to share their stories and enjoy the beautiful scenery as well as a game of Goat polo to escape their daily routines. The break is over and the second half starts, some players have been replaced and the tension starts to grow. Everybody wants to win, the young players for the prize money and their fathers for the pride and honor. The horses collide and one of the men falls on the ground; the women keep calm. They've seen accidents hundreds of times before while their young boys climb horses around their mothers and their fearlessness not just impresses but frightens as well. In a few years they'll be the ones playing the rough game next to their older brothers and friends, always worrying that no one gets injured or even dies. The referee finally announces the winner of the game and equally boys and men scream of joy and hold up the dead goat as a trophy. They take photos together to prove their accomplishment to friends and family back home. Slowly everybody goes back to their daily routines before they gather the next time for the dangerous game of Kokboru.