View of Chapandazes warming up before the game starts.The goal is to carry a headless goat to a circle marked out of hay.

A player trying to place the sheep’s skin in his horse, Tajikistan.

Moment before the match starts, people gather on top of the trucks to get a better view.

Buzkashi player leaving the match after it finishes. 


Buzkashi is a series shot in Tajikistan—a mountainous, landlocked former Soviet republic bordered by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and China.



It is a centuries-old central Asian sport, in which players on horseback fight over a disemboweled goat or calf carcass. The rules vary by country, but most buzkashi matches have no teams, no clock, and no clearly defined playing field. It’s a war of all against all, in which the winner is the horseman (traditionally, only men play the game) who successfully carries the carcass and throws it in a certain area.



Generally, both the public and the players are men. The duration of the game depends on weather or daylight. The winners get a range of prizes: rugs, sheep, money, cars, or even apartments. The prizes depend on who is funding the event: the wealthier the funders are, the bigger the prize gets.



It normally takes place in a valley or in a big outdoor space. There are no fences protecting the viewers from the brutal match; the horsemen often end up fighting for the carcass where the public stands.



All the formal portraits included in this series were taken when the match finished. A woman selling peanuts and sunflowers seeds, Natalie Egling, a South-African journalist, and I, six months pregnant, were the only women on the match.



This series was published at Mondial, a magazine by Rapha.