It’s more than just a bunch of muggles running around on brooms. It’s an international sport.
Players of a real-life version of quidditch, the fictional game from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, met in Oxford last week for the sport’s first major international tournament, in which teams from Britain, the United Stares, Canada, France and Australia faced off just as the Olympic torch was passing through the town. The timing was no coincidence: Quidditch players hope that one day they will get to represent their countries in the Olympics, too. “We thought it would be a great time to piggy-back off the Olympics, being held in the home country of Harry Potter, and show people that this is an exciting sport,” said Alex Benepe, one of the sport’s founders. “There are a lot more ridiculous sports in the Olympics than quidditch.”
(PHOTOS: The Quidditch World Cup in NYC)
The sport has grown immensely since it was first started in real life by Middlebury College students in 2005. Benepe created the International Quidditch Association in 2007, and it now boasts a rule book, a World Cup, and 700 teams from 25 different countries. The sport attracts a specific type of jock-nerd crossbreed who loves both Harry Potter and sports. “Most people who play are nerds, but we have a lot of jocks or athletes playing the sport as well, some of whom have never even read the Harry Potter books,” Benepe told Reuters. And those nerds want to be taken seriously.
In the books and movies, the game is a face-paced mix of dodgeball and rugby, played while rocketing through the air on magic broomsticks. Adapting it for real life, however, required some ingenuity: players must run with a broom between their legs at all times. Each team has seven players: Three are chasers whose job it is to score goals through a hoop; two are beaters who use dodge balls (bludgers, in Potter speak) to disrupt gameplay; one is a goalkeeper who defends the hoop like a soccer goalie; and one is a seeker who attempts to catch the snitch — a tiny, golden ball with wings, which in the muggle version of the game is a tennis ball in a yellow sock that has been tucked into the waistband of a player dressed in gold. When the snitch is caught, the game ends, and points are totaled: 10 for each goal through the hoop, 30 for catching the snitch. It can get pretty physical.
But is it Olympic caliber? Some spectators had their doubts. “I don’t think it’s for the Olympics,” Emma Bound, whose 10-year-old son Top is a big Harry Potter fan, told Reuters. “It’s probably better when the broomsticks can actually fly.”