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In the poor, desolate northern provinces of the mountainous feudal Sunni kingdom of Afghanistan (before the Soviet-engineered republican revolutions), the status of the proud men and their clans is determined less by wealth or even military power (both rare) then by victories in the ancient, though game of buskashi, a vicious form of polo dating back to Genghis Khan, in which the chapendaz (participating horsemen) use their horse-whips on both mounts and rivals in a ruthless fight for a heavy 'ball', a dead calf, which must be carried a long way, almost impossible with all the others mercilessly assailing. Tursen, a former champion, now holds the status of village notable thanks to his position as stable-keeper of the regional lord Osman Bey, and has finally bred a horse without equal, the white stallion Jahil, in time for the royal tournament on the plain of Bagrami, just outside the capital Kabul...
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