VCU’s Quidditch team flies to World Cup VI

Samantha McCartney
Staff Writer

Sean Mussenden
Capital News Service – Maryland

In the Harry Potter universe, Quidditch is a game played on flying broomsticks, with young witches and wizards battling high in the air. In the Muggle world, it’s played by college students running around on broom sticks on the ground.

VCU’s Quidditch team, Wizengamot, had the opportunity to fly to the Quidditch World Cup VI in Kissimmee, Fla. this past weekend. While they did not win the cup, participation was gratifying enough.

VCU’s Quidditch team, Wizengamot, traveled to Florida for the World Cup competition, which includes teams from around the globe. photo courtesy of Tommy Mcphail
VCU’s Quidditch team, Wizengamot, traveled to Florida for the World Cup competition, which includes teams from around the globe. photo courtesy of Tommy Mcphail

A field of 80 teams from Canada, France and Mexico competed in the two-day tournament against college Quidditch squads from across the U.S., including Penn State, Ohio State, Boston University, Texas A&M, USC and the University of Maryland.

“Muggle Quidditch” was created in 2005 by students at Middlebury College in Vermont who were looking for an alternative to bocce ball and adapted the rules of J.K. Rowling’s game for a non-magical audience.

The game has its orgins in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book series. It combines elements of rugby, dodgeball and lacrosse. Quidditch has turned into a popular sport not only on college campuses, but all around the world.

Wizengamot competed in the Mid-Atlantic competition, held in Roanoke Valley this past November, against teams from all over the east coast including Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

In the book series, Hogwarts students fly around on brooms while playing the game. Lack of magical properties lead to Muggle Quidditch, in which brooms are still an instrumental part of the game as the players must all run with a broom between their legs to simulate flying.

Each team consists of seven players: one keeper, two beaters, three chasers and a seeker.

The keeper is responsible for protecting the goals, much like in soccer. Beaters hit the opposing team’s players with dodgeballs, called bludgers, to keep them from hitting their team’s players. While all of this is going on, chasers dart in and out of the bludgering and goalkeeping in an attempt to score into the other team’s three hoops, or goals.

The seeker’s job is to catch the golden snitch. The snitch is a ball placed inside of a long yellow sock, hanging from the back of the shorts of the snitch runner who acts as the golden snitch while the game is being played.

“I think that Quidditch could easily become one of the most popular sports in the world,” said Alex Benepe, the commissioner of the International Quidditch Association. “It has a higher entertainment value than some other well established sports, but it is going to take some time.”

Winners of the World Cup don’t receive cash or an endorsement, but according to Wizengamot president and team captain Tommy McPhail, it’s much more than that for participants.

“The first World Cup was a small little on-campus type of thing. In the last couple of years, it attracted a lot more teams, first year doing qualifiers, and now it’s extremely professional,” McPhail said. “It’s an honor to be on the team that earned a spot in the world cup.”

While the competition is fierce, there is a atmosphere of humor and comaraderie between the teams.

“We trade strategy and jokes. There are people here from all over Europe,” McPhail said.

The World Cup isn’t free, however. Teams had to fundraise for the weekend, which costs anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000. The Wizengamots paid for most of their trip themselves by holding online fundraisers and asking people to donate. The team raised over $4,000.

Director of marketing for the International Quidditch Association Logan Anbinder said that the association is looking to expand the audience of the game.

“They think Harry Potter. They think nerds,” Anbinder said. “They have connotations of people running around on brooms, but it’s a real sport.”

The tournament lasted all weekend, with most games being played Saturday and Sunday. From the bracketed tournament on Saturday, a pool of five who achieve rank played in the championships on Sunday.

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