“Forget fiction…This Sport is real,” states the slogan of the IQA – International Quidditch Association. For six years now, a game previously restricted to wizards, has been taking the Muggle world by storm.
This April will see the seventh annual Quidditch World Cup at Middlebury College, Vermont, featuring over 80 college teams representing 36 states. Players will collide in full-force tackles, bludgers will leave stinging blows that knock athletes off their feet, quaffles will whistle through goal hoops, and seekers will fervently pursue the golden snitch. Thousands of spectators will look on with eager anticipation, watching undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports ever invented unfold before their very eyes. Butterbeer, Bertie-Botts Every Flavour Beans, (they mean every flavour!), Chocolate Frogs and Turkey Legs will be sold from food stalls, and whilst all of this action is taking place, the thunderous Harry Potter theme tune will blast over the tannoy on a continuous loop, which is enough to make anyone with two ears go irreversably insane.
The earthbound variation of the sport has been available to Muggles since 2007, when it was first founded by Middlebury College in the states. The game was an instant success. Now 800 registered teams in the U.S.A alone compete in weekly fixtures, some with over 50 active members.
Even more exciting for Quidditch fans here in the U.K. is that J.K Rowling’s formerly fictional sport has recently ballooned onto the University circuit. The likes of Oxford and Cambridge now compete against other universities in far too competitive University Quidditch fixtures, and they have been known to host referee training for aspiring Quidditch referees. For the first time ever, this November we will witness the inaugural British Quidditch Cup, organized by the national Quidditch organization, (QuidditchUK) which is a gigantic step for UK Quidditch to gain much deserved international recognition.
Understandably the game is restricted to non-wizards only in order to keep the game at a level playing field. Since its origins, there have been 6 official rule books published, consolidating its growing legitimacy as an authentic sport. Muggle Quidditch is considered a semi-contact sport, with 7 players in a team: 1 seeker, 1 keeper, 3 chasers and 2 beaters. The rules attempt to be faithful to the original game, but obviously there are certain necessary rule adaptations from J.K Rowling’s version. Players must have a broomstick of their choosing stationed between their legs at all times during the match, and failure to adhere to this rule, results in forced placidity for one minute. Similarly to original Quidditch, the 3 chasers aim to get the quaffle, (volleyball), into one of 3 elevated hoops at the end of the pitch. The two beaters, throw bludgers (deflated volleyballs), at the opposite team and if you are unfortunate enough to be struck by a bludger, you must demount your broom immediately (the only time in which this is permitted!) and return to your hoops where you have the liberty of remounting. Ingeniously, the Golden Snitch has been usurped by a man spray-painted gold, who runs around aimlessly with a tennis ball contained in a sock attached to a waistband. If a seeker grabs the tennis ball, it earns them 30 points and the game ends. Interestingly, the ‘snitch carrier’ has the liberty to roam outside of the playing area, and can run even to the other end of the campus, whilst still being chased by the seekers. During one infamous encounter between Maryland and the University of Texas in the 2009 World Cup, the match had to be postponed as the Snitch carrier ran so far away from the pitch that he couldn’t find it again.
So there you have it, a brief glimpse into the bizarre and deluded world of Muggle Quidditch. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see it making an appearance as a Berkhamsted School games option.