Straight from the world of Harry Potter, quidditch has conquered around forty countries, but this sporty UFO astride a stick wants to free itself from the famous wizard to become a discipline in its own right. American students had created a version for “muggles” (non-magicians) subjected to gravity, mixing aspects of handball and rugby, with schoolyard games.
“Quaffle”, “Bludgers” and “Golden Snitch”
In JK Rowling’s novels, players of quidditch spin around on their broomsticks to throw the “quaffle” through rings, avoid “bludgers” and catch the “golden snitch” to end the match. Gradually, the discipline has been codified and structured within national federations and official championships, such as the French Cup disputed last weekend in Angers (Maine-et-Loire).
Some discovered the sport during university exchanges abroad, others on the occasion of gatherings of Harry Potter fans, still others stumbled upon training in a park… , the capes and hats of the magicians of the first followers have all but disappeared, as well as the references to the world of magic on the jerseys.
“We come for Harry Potter, we stay for the sport“, insists Cédric Chillan, 38, coach of the France team. This former hand player, who plays with the Frogs of Paris, thus praises the physical side, the good-natured atmosphere and the complexity of the strategies. But the sorcerers’ vocabulary remained, as did brooms, in the form of plastic sticks.
A tad ridiculous? Not at all, assures Tiphaine Pasquereau, 32, communication officer for the federation and vice-president of the Elephants of Nantes, who arrived in quidditch after 15 years of judo. “It’s not for pretending to steal. It’s a handicap, in the same way that you have to dribble to advance in handball or go backwards in rugby. forced you to handle the balls with one hand, to tackle with one hand…“, she explains.
From the edge of the field, she harangues her team: “Fabien, quaffle priority. Maëva, you protect your tip!“Like the instructions, the game may seem confusing to the uninitiated. Moreover, no less than five referees and two assistants ensure that the rules are respected. In each team, four chasers try to pass the quaffle (a volleyball ) in the opposing rings, two beaters try to momentarily put them offside by shooting them with bludgers (dodgeballs or dodgeballs) and, after 18 minutes, a seeker comes into play to try to s seize the Snitch.
Quidditch, a protected name
For lack of a small golden ball with delicate wings like in the movies, the Snitch is a tennis ball lodged in a sock and attached to the shorts of a neutral runner dressed all in yellow. The actions are fast, the races constant, the shocks sometimes harsh, the changes frequent. Particularity of the game: the teams must be mixed, with a maximum of four players of the same gender engaged at the same time.
Still confidential in France, with 200 to 300 followers within a dozen active teams, the practice is booming in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany… To the point that a change of nomenclature is under study in the United States, in order to be able to continue development without going through Warner, holder of the rights to the Harry Potter universe.
This development will also have to be accompanied by the creation of teams of young people, so as not to let the discipline wither away as the generation fed on Harry Potter ages. In the meantime, Cédric Chillan is fine-tuning his selection for the European championships organized at the end of July in Ireland, after two years of interruption due to covid. The stakes are real: winners in 2019, France has a title to defend.