Quidditch is a very fast-paced game that requires a lot of awareness of its many moving parts.
If you went to Edinburgh’s public football pitches this October, you might have been surprised to see a large number of people running about with PVC pipes between their legs, tossing volleyballs through plastic hoops and throwing dodgeballs at each other. These people were not, as you might believe, members of a strange new cult, but rather they were participating in the sport of Muggle Quidditch: a fast-paced game that merges rugby, dodgeball, capture-the-flag, and of course, the fictional sport of Quidditch from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
At this particular tournament, the Glasgow Grim Reapers, a team from the University of Glasgow, put up an impressive showing with victories against the St. Andrews Snidgets and Liverpool Liverpuddly Cannons, defeat at the hands of London’s Unspeakables, and a narrow loss against Edinburgh’s Holyrood Hippogriffs, who went on to win the tournament. The Unspeakables took second place and the Cannons third, with the Glasgow Grim Reapers finishing in fifth place out of twelve teams participating, just after the Dusseldorf Dementors from Dusseldorf, Germany.
The sport of Quidditch is loosely based on the fictional version of the game which those who have read the Harry Potter books or watched the movies will likely remember. The most obvious part of Quidditch that differs it from other sports is that it is traditionally played on flying broomsticks; however, since those do not exist in the real world, players instead hold PVC pipes between their legs that are used as brooms and must be ridden for the entire match. Each team has three Chasers and one Keeper who attempt to score the Quaffle (a volleyball) into the hoops of the opposing team (three plastic hoops at different heights on the far end of the pitch) to earn ten points, while simultaneously attempting to guard their own hoops. Their efforts are stymied by each team’s two Beaters, who throw Bludgers (slightly deflated dodgeballs) at other players in order to dismount them: getting hit by a Bludger incurs the same penalty as coming off your broom and forces a player to drop any ball they are holding and return to their hoops. Finally, after a set amount of time, the Seekers (the position played by Harry Potter) come onto the field in pursuit of the Golden Snitch: a tennis ball in a yellow sock hanging from the golden shorts of the Snitch-runner, a special referee who attempts to prevent either Seeker from catching the Snitch by any means necessary. If the Snitch is caught and declared good, the catching team receives 30 points and the game ends.
Quidditch is a very fast-paced game that requires a lot of awareness of its many moving parts. Players are allowed to tackle other players of their same position, although there are very strict guidelines on what constitutes a legal tackle for safety reasons, and even an accidental disobeyal of these guidelines can lead to a yellow card. Furthermore, the game requires players to run around a lot, particularly if they tend to become a target for the enemy’s Beaters. As such, the game is played with a significant number of substitutes who can freely swap in for their teammates, allowing for many players to participate in any given game even though only seven players from a given team can take the field at a time. In particular, Seekers often find themselves substituting constantly because, particularly when scores are close, Beaters tend to focus on them whenever possible, forcing Seekers to run back to their hoops repeatedly before being able to properly pursue the Snitch.
Despite its intensity, and likely because of its origins, Quidditch is known for being a very friendly and welcoming sport. Traditionally, after each match, players give a “three cheers” for the other team, and players line up and hug each member of the opposing team in what is known as a “hugline”. In addition, the sport is intentionally and deliberately coed: recent versions of the rulebook include a “Gender Rule” that mandates that no more than four players from a team on the pitch can identify as the same gender as one another (which includes provisions for transgender and non-binary individuals).
The Highlander tournament was played over the course of two days. In the first day, teams fought in qualifying matches to determine rankings for the elimination matches of the second day. The Reapers began with a match against the London Unspeakables, who defeated them 80-190. The Reapers then narrowly defeated the Liverpool Liverpuddly Cannons 140-90 and overwhelmingly defeated the St. Andrews Snidgets with a score of 130-80 (this may look close, but the Snidgets “killed” the game by catching the Snitch while significantly behind to avoid losing by more points than they had to). The next day, the Reapers fought in their first qualifying match against the Edinburgh Holyrood Hippogriffs. The Reapers had the advantage in the Quaffle game for most of the match, but were unable to get out of SWIM (“Snitch When It Matters”) range, and the Hippogriffs were able to catch the Snitch, narrowly winning by 60-40. After their defeat, however, the Glasgow players’ day wasn’t over – several eliminated teams organised friendly matches on open pitches, and most of the team stuck around to watch the final games.
The Hippogriffs went on to win the tournament in a very close game against the Unspeakables. Edinburgh was able to catch the Snitch when the score was 60-60, but the catch was ruled no good because of a simultaneous foul. During the latter part of the game, there was roughly a three-minute period where the Chasers were “cuddling” in a pile on the ground fighting over the Quaffle, but neither team’s Beaters could leave the Snitch because they needed to beat out the other team’s Seeker. Finally, Edinburgh was able to pull off a successful catch to win the tournament.
Third place was taken by Liverpool in a very long game against the Dusseldorf Dementors. Although Liverpool was significantly ahead on points for most of the game, due to an aggressive Dusseldorf Beater defense they couldn’t catch the Snitch until the 43-minute mark, at which point they were about 200 points ahead.
Anyone interested in joining the Glasgow Grim Reapers should contact the team on their Facebook page. Practices are Wednesdays and Sundays from 3-5 at Kelvingrove Park.