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The games you play make you who you are

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 13:23 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

The non-Olympic games project has made me think of games and sport as the expressions of different mentalities.

It's not for the first time this thought has preoccupied my mind.

Talking for instance about cricket in the series Summer of Englishness I tried to correlate that game with English identity.

I have been to Kazakhstan recently and recorded one of their national games 'Asyk', which you can see here

The first part of the game - throwing the joint-bones as a dice - is based purely on a chance.

It reminds me the way nomadic people like Kazakhs have lived their lives traditionally, and are dependant on different random pastures on the steppe, a hazardous place to live.

But the second part of the game is closely connected to skill, you have to hit a row of joints rather precisely, like all nomadic hunters do with their arrows.

When you have you chance you shouldn't miss it. The philosophy of this game echoes the philosophy of a nomadic life.

And the very subject of the game - Asyk or the joint-bone - is a by-product of an eaten sheep or a cow.

For the same token it's no wonder that the English people have invented football.
First of all it's a team game. The aim of the game to get the ball into a net.

It's easy to imagine a nation of fishers, going to sea in teams to get their common catch.
There is another purely English sense of paradox in this game, it's played with feet rather than with hands, whereas all fishing is done by hands.

I understand how simplified is this parallel, but there's something in it to mull about.

Games travel the world and some nations adapt to them even better than the founders.

When you watch skilful Brazilian footballers, they are as light and fluid kayaks to heavy English fishing boats.

English football kept its orthodoxy with every member of the team allocated a special role: if you are Beckham you meant to cross and kick the free-kicks, if you are Crouch - fight in the air, if you are Heskey - miss the opportunities.

Others preferred mobility as the basis of their success.
What I'm saying is that the national character is reflected in the games too.

There are some games which were a part of a national tradition of different countries and now are becoming a matter of a controversy.

Spanish corrida or bull-fighting is one of them.

Though the beauty of toreadors' and matadors' art has been noted over the centuries by poets and composers, writers and artists, dancers and ordinary folk, nowadays animal rights activists fight the cruelty of that game.

This game, however cruel it is, could not be playout out without the skill, bravery and art of a man.

In a dog-fight or a cock-fight - games spread out through Central Asia there is no man involved as an actor, just as a spectator of pure cruelty.

A dog fight

Tough games reflect the tough life of the participants.

Another Central Asian and Afghan game is called Bozkashi or Ulak.

Horsemen fight for a goat corpse, which they should get from the crowd and drop at a finish line.

Once again it's easy to imagine the reality behind the creation of that game, where bravery is mixed up with some sort of greed, the art of horse-riding and the ruthless attitude towards rivals.

Men on horses take part in Bozkashi

So I guess what I'm saying is: show me the game you play and I tell you who you are.

Please, send me your wonderful games.

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