Traditional wrestling continues as a Friday rendezvous in Kabul – The Journal

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Through clouds of dust, two men cautiously surround themselves before one dives forward, grabbing his rival’s clothes

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Through clouds of dust, two men cautiously surround themselves before one dives forward, grabbing his rival’s clothes and, after a brief struggle, deftly tackling him to the ground .

The crowd, arranged in a circle around them, some sitting on the ground, others standing or climbing in the back of the rickshaws to see better in a park in the Afghan capital, bursts with joy. Victor and the vanquished smile good-naturedly, kissing briefly before some onlookers shove the banknotes into the winner’s hand.

The scene takes place every week after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where men – mostly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan – gather to watch and compete in the pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling.

Although the Taliban, who took control of Afghanistan in mid-August, previously banned the sport when they ruled the country in the 1990s, the pahlawani were already exempt. Now, just over three months after starting their new rule over the country, a handful of Taliban policemen have attended the Friday games as security guards.

Matches are simple matters. There is no other arena than the large circle formed by the spectators. The competitors, barefoot in the dust, all wear the same tunics, one blue and one white, passed from one athlete to another for each match. Each competitor represents his province, with the name and the province announced to the spectators by the referee.

Each match has four rounds, and the winner is the first who can turn his opponent onto his back. A referee officiates, while judges among the crowd deliver their verdict in cases where there is no obvious winner. Many end with links.

“We are providing this facility for our people to have fun,” Juma Khan, 58-year-old judge and deputy event manager said last Friday. A security guard at a daytime market, the former wrestler has been judging competitions for 12 years, he said. Just like his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him. “It’s our culture.

Most athletes and spectators spend two to three months in the Afghan capital working – as laborers or in hotels, restaurants and markets – before returning home for a few weeks with their families.

Pahlawani offers a few hours of much anticipated entertainment. The men gather in the dusty field of Chaman-e-Huzori Park around 2 p.m. every Friday and stay until sunset, with around 10-20 young men coming from the crowds to compete.

Then, as the sun sets behind the Tapai Maranjan hill in the background, the competitors finished. In the blink of an eye, as dust swirls around the high-speed rickshaws, their horns sound, the crowd dissipates for another week.

Afghan men fight in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where men, mostly from the provinces from northern Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

A man massages the hand of a competitor during wrestling matches in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori park in the center -City of Kabul, where men, mostly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Afghan men fight as spectators watch in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene takes place weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where men , mostly from northern Afghanistan provinces, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

An Afghan man prepares to play a wrestling match in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene takes place weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where men, mostly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

An aerial view of Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, as people circle to watch wrestling matches on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the huge Chaman-e- Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where men, mostly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Mstyslav Chernov)

A boy sells eggs to spectators during wrestling matches in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene takes place every week after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where men, mainly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Afghan men wrestle in front of spectators in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene takes place every week after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where mostly men from Afghanistan’s northern provinces, come together to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

A spectator squeezes a banknote into the winner’s hand after a wrestling match in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori park in the center -City of Kabul, where men, mostly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Spectators watch a wrestling match in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where mainly men provinces of northern Afghanistan, come together to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Spectators depart for a fight in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori Park in downtown Kabul, where mainly men provinces of northern Afghanistan, come together to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Spectators depart in a three-wheeled vehicle after watching wrestling matches in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, November 19, 2021. The scene is played out weekly after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e- Park. Huzori in downtown Kabul, where men, mostly from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, gather to watch and compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)


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