It’s a muggle’s game – and a wizard wheeze
THE players run across the pitch with broomsticks between their legs, the “quaffle” is a volleyball, and the “golden snitch” wears a bright yellow jumper.
It’s not quite what JK Rowling envisaged when she invented the sport of wizards in her Harry Potter series but Edinburgh University has launched its own Quidditch team and is applying for official recognition.
The team, known as the Holyrood Hippogriffs, practise in the city’s Meadows park, where they attempt to score goals by gaining possession of a volley ball which is thrown through three hoops of varying size.
Alongside more accepted sports such as rowing, rugby and netball, Quidditch is now available to all students through the university’s Harry Potter Society, which founded the team after seeing its rising popularity in the US, where its now played at more than 300 colleges and high schools.
Team member and Edinburgh University student Johnny Rhodes said: “It really is quite a challenging activity because it combines so many different aspects and skills. Even if you’re just standing on the side waiting to pass, you’ve still got the broom to think about. Dodging, catching, tackling – all this is going through your head as you try not to fall on your face.”
The game has soared in popularity worldwide since it was founded at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005 by a small group of hardcore Harry Potter fans. Nowadays the game boasts its own governing body – the International Quidditch Association – which issues a 55-page rulebook and broomstick regulations, and organises tournaments including the annual Quidditch World Cup.
Quidditch may not yet be ready for Olympic or Commonwealth Games inclusion but the Scottish Government’s sports agency SportScotland said it would consider recognising Quidditch as a valid sport.
A spokesperson said: “There is a clearly defined process for recognising a new sport, requiring approval from all four home nations and UK Sport. Before being considered for recognition, a sport must have a national governing body in place to ensure the sport is organised and developed effectively.
“If a national governing body was established and Quidditch proved to be a flying success then an application for recognition could be considered.”
Geology student Emily Starbuck, 21, the founder and captain of the Edinburgh University student team, said: “When the Fourth World Cup happened, I read about it online and thought ‘What’s this?’ I researched the International Quidditch Association and thought it would be good to start up my own team. Our society attracts a lot of international students and everyone is really enthusiastic.”
Other British universities, including Oxford, have also formed teams and plans are being made for a cross-Border league. Starbuck added: “We’re trying to make Edinburgh an official IQA team.”
The 2011 World Cup – the fifth – took place in New York in November with 100 teams from five countries and included sides from outside North America for the first time. Total crowd attendance for the tournament was more than 20,000.
Players can hold a number of positions on the team, in accordance with Rowling’s original game as described in the books. There are “beaters”, “chasers” and a “seeker” – the position held by the boy wizard himself, which involves hunting down and capturing the “golden snitch”.
However, the most challenging role is that of the “golden snitch” itself, which in the books is a tiny golden ball that flies using wings. In the “muggle”, or human, version of the game the snitch is another person who is “released” at the beginning of the game and given 40 seconds to get away from the seeker. The snitch can use a number of methods to avoid capture, from climbing trees to hiding in the crowd or even escaping around the pitch on a bicycle.
Rhodes said: “We get a great deal of public interest when we’re playing. Tourists and random people come up, and dogs seem to like us. If we could teach the dogs to use the brooms they’d probably be better than us.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh said the large numbers of young people playing the game – which features extensively in all seven Harry Potter novels – acted as an example of the power of storytelling.
“It shows how stories can infiltrate from fantasy into real life if you let them and you’re not afraid to let go. It’s nice to remember the powerof the story and that you can lose yourself in them,” she said.
“What’s great about storytelling is that people find their own ways of expressing stories and bringing them to life in a way that suits their lives.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east