Quidditch ready to drop Harry Potter to become a real sport

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 famous wizard to become a discipline in its own right.

In JK Rowling’s novels, players spin their broomsticks to throw the ‘trunk’ through the rings, dodge ‘bangers’ and catch the ‘golden tell-tale’ 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. Gradually, the discipline was codified and structured within national federations and official championships, such as the Coupe de France contested the previous 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 fields, the capes and hats of the wizards of the first followers have almost disappeared, as are the references to the world of magic on the sweaters. “We come for Harry Potter, we stay for the sport,” emphasizes Cédric Chillan, the 38-year-old France national coach. This former handball player, who plays for the Frogs de Paris, 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), communications officer of the French Federation and Vice-President of the Elephants of Nantes, who arrived in quidditch after 15 years of judo. ‘It’s not to pretend to steal. It’s a handicap, just like you have to dribble to go forward in handball or backward in rugby. It forces you to grab the balls with one hand, tackle with one hand,” she explains. From the edge of the field, she calls out to her team: “Fabien, drinking priority! Maeva, protect your tip! †

Still confidential in France, quidditch is booming in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany. Last weekend the Coupe de France was held in Angers and at the end of July the European Championships will take place in Ireland. It’s really at stake: France, crowned in 2019, have a title to defend after a two-year hiatus for

Name change

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 put them out of the game temporarily by firing bludgers (dodgeballs or dodgeballs) at them and after 18 minutes a seeker comes in to play to trying to grab the snitch. Lacking a little golden ball with delicate wings like in the movies, the golden 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 and Germany. To the point that the United States is studying a change in nomenclature to allow development to continue without the involvement of Warner, the company that owns 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 these days for the European Championships to be held in Ireland at the end of July, after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The stakes are real: crowned in 2019, France has a title to defend.

Fanny CARRIER/AFP

Inspired by the world of Harry Potter, Quidditch has conquered some forty countries, but this sports UFO astride a stick wants to free itself from the famous wizard to become a discipline in its own right. JK Rowling’s novels revolve the players on their brooms to launch the “quaffle” through rings, avoid…