Frequently, spectators are angry with the refereeing at a game. Once in a while, that anger spins out of control, and people are hurt.
And very rarely, this happens over a sport that involves a goat carcass.
Let’s set the scene. It was the final game of the President’s Cup in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on Thursday. It was a big occasion on the country’s Independence Day, with 30,000 spectators present, including President Sadyr Japarov.
The home team, Dostuk, fell to the visitors, Yntymak from Talas, 2-1. But aggrieved fans rushed the field, unhappy with the officials’ decisions. Stones were thrown. About 100 people sought medical treatment afterward. One police officer was taken to a hospital. Twenty-five people were arrested, the Kyrgyzstan news site Kloop reported on Friday.
The president of the sport’s federation, Talas Begaliev, later blamed the riot on spectators who were not true fans: “What happened after the game was done by spectators who do not understand sport, have not seen anything and have a very low level of culture.”
“These people defamed not only kok-boru, but our culture as well,” he added.
Oh, didn’t we mention the sport? It was kok-boru, a kind of polo in which the ball is, well, an 80-pound goat carcass. A headless and legless goat carcass, to be precise.
Horses and riding have been a vital part of Kyrgyz culture for centuries. In kok-boru, a game with origins among nomads, two teams of four on horseback try to pick up the goat carcass, carry it down the field and throw it in a ring that serves as the goal.
It is a physical affair, which some have compared to rugby even more than polo. Riders will wrestle away the goat from an opponent by almost any means necessary. Variations of the game are also played in Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and other nearby countries.
The chairman of the State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, took a philosophical view: “It’s a sport, it’s a game. Someone wins, someone loses. The loser should not be angry. You have to be grateful for both the win and the loss.”