The Quidditch World Cup is coming up very soon. On November 12th and 13th, 100 broom-wielding Quidditch teams from across the United States and four other countries will convene in New York City for the annual celebration of Harry Potter lore and top notch athleticism. I so wish I could be there. To me, the Quidditch World Cup, and all those who play the game, truly embody the spirit of this blog. Everybody’s Invited! is about treating silly things with the respect they deserve, and that’s exactly what Muggle Quidditch is all about. (For those who don’t know, Muggles are non-magical people. Like you probably!)
The World Cup is organized by the International Quidditch Association. That’s a thing. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Harrison Homel, who serves as the Western Regional Director for the IQA. Despite being occupied with both World Cup preparations and mid-terms, Harrison was kind enough to talk with me about how the game works, the role of the IQA, and what makes Muggle Quidditch so magical.
[Editor's Note: This interview assumes the reader is familiar with the sport of Quidditch as depicted in the Harry Potter books and movies. If you need a refresher, go here.]
Everybody’s Invited!: For people who don’t know how to play Muggle Quidditch, can you describe how it’s played?
Harrison Homel: It’s a combination of soccer, rugby, tag, and dodgeball, all sort of rolled into one and going on at the same time. If it sounds chaotic, it’s because it is. It’s full contact, and it’s surprisingly athletic. It works pretty similarly to the way it does in the books.
EI!: Except for the flying.
HH: Yes. There’s slightly less magic involved.
EI!: But players are on brooms, right?
HH: Yes. All play must happen on a broom. That’s a holdover from when the league first started. And the reason we haven’t gotten rid of is…we love it! That’s what makes Quidditch Quidditch. There’s a definite sense of tongue-in-cheek.
EI!: I have always thought that the scoring system in the books was fundamentally flawed because the snitch seems far too valuable. 150 points! That’s crazypants. Have you found a way to address that in Muggle Quidditch?
HH: Well, first of all, when Quidditch is played by Muggles, the snitch is a person who we dress up all in gold. It’s usually a track and field or wrestler type of person. Their job is to not get caught by the Seekers. They have a much wider area where they can run in; they’re not restricted to the field. They don’t have very many foul rules, so they can pretty much do what’s required to not get caught. I’ve seen snitches bodily throw seekers to the ground. I’ve seen snitches get on bicycles and ride away. During the final match of the World Cup last year, all of the participant snitches who were watching the match helped to run a diversion for the actual snitch. They all got together and spread out, so the seekers had to find the real snitch. They can pretty much do what they please. It’s perhaps the most fun dynamic of Muggle Quidditch.
The catch is only worth 30 points, though, which addresses the problem you’re talking about. And it does end the game, like in the books.
EI! Is Quidditch kind of dangerous?
HH: The snitch is bound by common sense restrictions. But play on the field is full contact. You’re allowed to tackle with one arm. You’re allowed charges. You’re allowed to create separation with a stiff-arm.
EI!: Is there any protective gear?
HH: There isn’t. The IQA recommends lacrosse goggles. And a lot of teams have mouthguards. But…no. Also, one of the important facets of this game is that it’s co-ed. There’s a rule that says that two genders must be represented on the field at any time. In Quidditch it’s equal opportunity in terms of giving and taking hits.
EI!: Is it a very competitive sport?
HH: It absolutely is. There are teams that have been training five days a week for months, getting ready for the World Cup. It’s serious business. One of the really cool things about this, as opposed to other Harry Potter fandom areas, is that we draw in people who aren’t only book nerds, but also athletes. So we get a lot of former football, soccer or basketball players who maybe read one of the books, or saw a couple movies, but who came to Quidditch because they respect the sport. There are people who love it as a game, and it has nothing to do with Harry Potter for them.
EI!: Where are you on the spectrum of Harry Potter fan to athlete?
HH: I’m such a nerd. I organize because I’m much better at it than playing.
EI!: Tell me about the International Quidditch Association.
HH: The IQA is a registered nonprofit, started by two Middlebury College Students in 2005. We have a few different bodies in place that dictate different things. There’s a Board of Directors, a management team, a Rules Council, and a League Management Council. That’s the top level, and it breaks down by region as well. There are 400 teams in the league right now, and it’s growing.
EI!: This is so legit. Do you know of any other sport that was derived from literature?
HH: No, this is really unique. And it’s really exciting. We’re developing this in a way that no other sport has been developed. Sports don’t get invented very often. There are rule questions every day, because we’re still very much in our early growth.
EI!: Part of your mission is to “create, connect, and enhance our communities.” How do you achieve that mission exactly?
HH: We have college teams, community teams, high school teams, and we have kidditch, which is exactly as adorable as it sounds. We have separate sets of rules to make it applicable to different ages. Because there’s a spectrum of people who play Quidditch, it really serves to bring people together. People who might not interact at school, or in life, will get together because they love this ridiculous thing. There’s a broad appeal here. You’re on a broom! You can’t be taking yourself too seriously when you’re on a broom.
EI!: Word. What’s the World Cup like?
HH: The World Cup is an incredible event. It’s a 100-team tournament this year. It’s a combination of sporting event and festival. There’s music and food, and in the past we’ve had live owls, fire breathers, dancers. There’s this culture of competition because it is the World Cup, but the dream is that it’s not just that. We hope it’s an enormous, magical weekend of community and fun. It promises to be an extraordinarily good time.
To buy tickets for the World Cup, visit http://www.worldcupquidditch.com.
To learn more about the history of the IQA, check out http://www.internationalquidditch.org.
To get caught up in the magic of Harry Potter, visit your local library.