Quidditch ready to drop Harry Potter to become a real sport

(AFP) – Inspired by the world of Harry Potter, Quidditch has conquered some forty countries, but this sporting UFO astride a stick wants to free itself from the famed wizard to become a discipline in its own right.

In JK Rowling’s novels, players spin their broomsticks to throw the “Quaffle” through the rings, dodge “bangers” and capture the “Golden Snitch” to end the match.

In 2005, American students created a version for “muggles” subjected to gravity, mixing aspects of handball and rugby, as well as playground games.

Little by little, the discipline has been codified and structured within national federations and official championships, such as the Coupe de France held last weekend in Angers.

Some discovered the sport during university exchanges abroad, others during Harry Potter fan gatherings, still others stumbled upon training in a park…

On the courts, the capes and wizard hats of the early followers have all but disappeared, as have the references to the world of magic on the jerseys.

– Handball, rugby and dodgeball –

“We come for Harry Potter, we stay for the sport,” emphasizes Cédric Chillan, 38, coach of the French team. Evolving with the Frogs of Paris, this former hand player shows off the physical side, the good-natured atmosphere and the complexity of the strategies.

But the wizard’s vocabulary, like the brooms, remained in the form of plastic sticks.

A little ridiculous? Not at all, assures Tiphaine Pasquereau, 32, federation communications officer and vice president of the Elephants of Nantes, who arrived in quidditch after 15 years of judo.

“It’s not pretending to steal. It’s a handicap, just like you have to dribble to move forward with your hand or backward in rugby. It forces you to grab the balls with one hand, to to take one hand.” ..”, she explains.

From the edge of the field, she shouts to her team: “Fabien, drinking priority. Maëva, protect your point!”

Like the instructions, the game can be confusing to the uninitiated. In addition, no fewer than five referees and two assistants ensure that the rules are observed.

In each team, four pursuers try to pass the quaffle (a volleyball) in the opposite rings, two batsmen try to temporarily sideline them by firing bludgers (dodgeballs or dodgeballs) at them and after 18 minutes a catcher comes into play to try to grab the Snitch.

– Name change –

Lacking a small gold ball with delicate wings like in the movies, the Snitch is a tennis ball tucked into a sock and attached to the shorts of a neutral runner dressed all in yellow.

The actions are fast, the races constant, the jerks sometimes hard, the changes frequent. Special feature of the game: the teams must be mixed, with a maximum of four players of the same sex involved at the same time.

Still confidential in France, with 200 to 300 followers across a dozen active teams, the practice is booming in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany…

To the point that a change in nomenclature is being studied in the United States to allow development to continue without the involvement of Warner, holder of the rights to the Harry Potter universe.

This development will also have to go hand in hand with the creation of teams of young people, so as not to let the discipline wither as the generation fed on Harry Potter.

Meanwhile, Cédric Chillan is fine-tuning his roster for the European Championships to be held in Ireland at the end of July after a two-year hiatus due to covid. The stakes are real: winners in 2019, France have a title to defend.