A Game of Polo with a Headless Goat

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A Game of Polo with a Headless Goat

This extract comes from a book which was written as a spin-off from Emma Levine’s television series about strange and unusual sports. It is a travelogue (a book which describes travel in a foreign country) in which she describes these sports, the people involved and her experiences of filming them. In doing so, she gives an insight not just into the sports themselves, but into the lives and culture of the people who take part in (and watch) them.

Understanding the text
Emma Levine’s purpose in writing her book was to describe and inform. She obviously has to engage and hold the reader’s interest. As you study this text, you need to think about how she does this.

On the surface the passage seems a straightforward description and narrative of the race, but it isn’t. First of all, there is not just one race happening, but three: º
The donkey race
The spectators’ race
The writer’s race to get the best pictures

Emma – a jornalist – wanting to capture the epic moment of the race Yaqoob – a unskilled driver (danger) – he love the risk that donkey race give him Iqbal – partner/ helper – was send to find our who was the winner of this race


During a seven-year journey around India spent immersing herself in the cricket subculture, author Emma Levine heard about the wonderful game of buzkashi, a kind of anarchic rugby on horseback where teams of men wrestle and race to grab a headless goat and propel it towards goal. This sparked a desire to explore Asia's unique traditional sports. A Game of Polo with a Headless Goat is Emma Levine's absorbing account of her epic adventure, which took her from camel wrestling in Turkey through bull racing in India to traditional gymnastics in Iran, performed to poetry and the beat of a drum. Sometimes she travelled so far off the beaten track that her journeys sometimes took days and she discovered places where western women are such a rare sight that she was mobbed (нападать толпой) by onlookers. And everywhere she went she met people who act as the guardians of their ancient sports, protecting the traditions that have evolved over generations. While they recount the folklore that surrounds their local pastimes, Emma Levine examines the status of indigenous sports in a world dominated by satellite TV, the web and the likes of Manchester United. Are they sports of the past or sports of the future? Illustrated with stunning photography, A Game of Polo with a Headless Goat evocatively portrays sporting ways of life rarely seen in the western world in such a way as to reveal what it is about sport that makes it so universally inspiring.

What can I say about language?

Most newspaper reports of sports races are serious in tone, and try to give the facts of the race and what it was like. Emma Levine’s purpose is much more complicated. In this passage there is a real mixture of the comic and the serious, with a lot of information given as well. You need to consider each part of it carefully.

The passage can be defined as a series of linked paragraphs, describing events in a sequence of time and concluding with the end of the race and the writer’s overview of what happened. The internal structure is much more complex than this simple outline suggests

Pharagraph by pharagreph

Paragraph 1-3 / Build up 
Paragraph 1 – Optimism, author promotes her own, Yaqoob and Iqbal’s excitement.  ‘We’ll open the car boot … we’ll join the cars.’ ⋄ Brief description of what will happen and Levine’s expectations. Builds immediate excitement and enthusiasm for race and the reader’s expectation of instant action.  Works effectively with 

Paragraph 2 – Contrast in tone between “The two lads…suddenly fired up with enthusiasm” in which Levine narrates the creation of new enthusiasm within locals (her guides) to reflect on the reader and the rest of the paragraph Use of “eternity” – hyperbole to exaggerate impatience and derived emotions...
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