Jereed or “cirit” was a popular sport involving horsemen and javelin during the Ottoman empire before it was banned in the early 19th century. Its return to popularity is part of the government’s push to encourage traditional sports.

A rider throws the javelin during a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
A rider throws the javelin during a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)

Riders in eastern Turkey play cirit, an equestrian sport that dates back to the martial horsemen who spearheaded the historical conquests of central Asia’s Turkic tribes.

A recent match on a snow-covered field in Erzurum saw players from two of the province’s clubs — the Comrades and the Experts — line up for a game that was developed more than 1,000 years ago to hone the cavalry skills developed by warriors including the Seljuks, who conquered Anatolia in the 11th century, and the Huns.

Riders, members of the Dadas (Comrades) local sporting club, pose for photographs prior to a game of Cirit, between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
Riders, members of the Dadas (Comrades) local sporting club, pose for photographs prior to a game of Cirit, between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)

The sport revolves around a rider trying to spear his or her opponent with a “javelin” — these days, a rubber-tipped, metre-long (40-inch-long) piece of wood.

Riders, members of the Uzmanlar, (Experts) sports club, pose for photographs prior to a game of Cirit in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
Riders, members of the Uzmanlar, (Experts) sports club, pose for photographs prior to a game of Cirit in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)
Riders, members of the Dadas (Comrades) local sporting club, gather for a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
Riders, members of the Dadas (Comrades) local sporting club, gather for a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)

The sport’s Turkish name translates as javelin or dart.

Riders from each team, which can number up to a dozen players, face each other, alternately acting as the thrower and the rider being chased. A match is held over two 35-minute periods.

A rider is about to throw the javelin during a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
A rider is about to throw the javelin during a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)

As well as points awarded for hitting an opponent with a javelin, the evading rider can score by performing manoeuvres such as hanging from his horse’s neck to avoid being struck or catching a javelin mid-air.

A rider throws the javelin during a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
A rider throws the javelin during a game of Cirit between the Comrades and the Experts local sporting clubs, in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)

Riders are penalised for transgress ions such as hitting an opponent’s mount or riding outside of the playing area, which can be from 70 to 130 metres (230 to 425 feet) in length.

Arabian horses are favoured for their agility and can fetch up to $5,300 (40,000 lira), March 05, 2021, Erzurum, Turkey.
Arabian horses are favoured for their agility and can fetch up to $5,300 (40,000 lira), March 05, 2021, Erzurum, Turkey. (AP)

Cirit was popular within the Ottoman Empire, the successor to the Seljuks’ domains, before it was banned in the early 19th century as the sultan sought to break up military elites. However, its popularity returned and it is now one of many traditional sports encouraged by the government.

Selcuk Davulcu, 31, a horse groom for the Dadas (Comrades) local sporting club, leaves the ground prior to a game of Cirit in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. The club officials said that Davulcu, a man with Down syndrome has been communicating with people just for the last four years thanks to the horses as they played a big role on his rehabilitation.
Selcuk Davulcu, 31, a horse groom for the Dadas (Comrades) local sporting club, leaves the ground prior to a game of Cirit in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. The club officials said that Davulcu, a man with Down syndrome has been communicating with people just for the last four years thanks to the horses as they played a big role on his rehabilitation. (AP)

Tournaments are often arranged during festivals or to celebrate weddings.

Cirit is also played among the Turkic populations of Iran, Afghanistan and other central Asian countries.

Thirteen-year-old Muhammed Rasit, the youngest member of Uzmanlar, (Experts) sports club, cuddles his horse prior to a game of Cirit, Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021.
Thirteen-year-old Muhammed Rasit, the youngest member of Uzmanlar, (Experts) sports club, cuddles his horse prior to a game of Cirit, Erzurum, eastern Turkey, March 5, 2021. (AP)
Source: AP