CHITRAL: Throughout winter, tourists rush to snow capped peaks to sledge and ski. Some make their way to the beautiful Alps, while others follow the adventurous trails in Tyrol – but a handful in Chitral play golf on snow – that too with wooden sticks and homemade balls.
After the recent heavy snowfall in Chitral, three valleys in Kalash, Birir, Bamboret and Rumbur observed their centuries-old winter sport tradition – Heem Ghaal and Paag Ghaal (snow golf) in the wide snowy fields of the valleys.
Luk Ramat, the festival’s organiser, said around 300 tourists from across the country along with 20 foreigners visited Kalash valley. The event was held in collaboration with the Sarhad Rural Support Programme and Agha Khan Rural Support Program.
He said the games started on February 20 and continued till March 6. A total of 12 teams with 24 players in each participated. The winning team earned a live bull as a trophy, which they slaughtered at the end of the day – a tradition known as Jush.
Talking about the history of this sport, Sher Mehmat, an elderly resident of Bamboret valley, said this game was played by their forefathers who migrated and settled in Chitral from Afghanistan.
Players use sticks to hit a homemade ball stuffed with pieces of cloth (locally called bampoo) and score a goal by striking it through the goal posts situated on either side of the stream.
The winning team, chosen on the basis of best-of-three intervals, receives either a bull or four goats given to them by the losing team. The victorious team then celebrates a musical night with drinks and meat from the trophy.
On the last day of the game, locals choose a king for 24 hours. The king, called Mehtar, solves disputes, announces punishments and provides food and local wine for all the villagers participating in the event.
Dingo Khun, a player from Braun village, said only the richest with the most number of cattle becomes the king. This year, food alone cost Rs0.3 million for the Mehtar, he added.
Khun said the final match was played between Broun and Batrik villages, which the former won with 12 goals. He added Braun was awarded a bull while, for the first time in history, the runner-up team was given a calf.
“It is important to hold such events, as it is our responsibility to preserve centuries-old Kalash customs,” said Sher Lajman, an elder from Birir valley, adding that such sporting events provide healthy activities for the youth.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2013.