MOSCOW, August 30 (RIA Novosti) – Passions run high at “goat polo” games in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation whose citizens are fiercely proud of a wild sport that enshrines their nomadic heritage.
But what happened at Thursday’s game, was a bit too dramatic even by the standards of the game – known in Kyrgyzstan as kok-boru – that involves two teams of horsemen fighting for the headless torso of a goat or lamb.
Fans rooting for one of the teams at a kok-boru game at the hippodrome in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, ganged up on the referee who, in their opinion, had unfairly disallowed their team’s goal and even took a swing at one of the players, Kyrgyz media reported.
At least half a dozen spectators rushed to the field and started beating and kicking the referee, in an incident shown in photos on the Kloop.kg news website. The beating only ended when police officers stepped in and took away the unconscious judge, Kloop.kg reported.
The game resumed with another referee, however, and a sports official downplayed the event.
“Nothing scary happened – this is an unpleasant, but absolutely harmless incident.” Tabyldy Asygaziyev of Kyrgyzstan’s National Sports Federation told the Knews website. “The referee did not need medical assistance, he’s all right.”
The rather more refined British equestrian sport of polo, that originated from India, came to the subcontinent with the Mogul dynasty from Central Asian origins, sports historians say.
Kok-boru was banned in Kyrgyzstan in the 1950s but enjoyed a revival in the region in the early 1990s, according to the Kyrgyzstan Kok-boru Federation webpage.
Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished nation of 5 million, currently boasts of 800 kok-boru teams, the Federation says.
The sport is still popular in Pakistan, Afghanistan – where it is known as bushkazi – and elsewhere in the region.