Witches, black gowns and broomsticks — it’s all just a game
Book series has given birth to a sport for those who lack the magic
One afternoon recently two young women walked into a shopping mall in the Liudaokou area of Beijing, and when they arrived on the third floor they made a beeline for a deserted corner that was being redecorated.
“This is the place,” Li Yangdan, 26, told her companion, Liu Yiying, 22.
Out of their bags they took black gowns and proceeded to put them on. Then the pair, now transformed into witches, took out wands.
That may sound like a scene from a Harry Potter novel, according to which the magic world is invisible to muggles, those who lack magic.
And that is precisely the answer Li and Liu give when people ask what the point is of playing the sport of Quidditch on brooms if they cannot not fly.
Li and Liu, who founded the Beijing Quidditch Club, were in the shopping mall shooting a short video for a company.
In late 2011, when Liu was still a high school student at Hangzhou Foreign Languages School, her schoolmate Wang Jiasheng returned after studying in the United States and introduced the muggle Quidditch to the school.
At the time Liu had been admitted to Peking University, and like many of her schoolmates she was not obliged to take national college entrance examinations, so they started playing the game with students from other grades.
Each of the players has to ride on a broom and while running instead of flying has to keep the broomstick between the two legs.
There are seven members on each team, one seeker, three chasers, two beaters and one keeper. A team can both have man and woman.
Unlike witches and wizards, muggles have to use a white volleyball to replace what is called a Quaffle in the books. If chasers throw the quaffle or the volleyball into one of the three rings on the rival team, then the team gains 10 points.
Similarly, muggles use soft volleyballs to represent what are called Bludges. Beaters throw soft volley- balls onto the members of the rival team to knock the targeted ones out temporarily of the game.
Golden Snitch is a tennis ball contained in a sock that is fastened to the waist of a person, supposedly one wearing golden clothes and good at escaping. When whichever seeker catches the golden snitch, the game is over and the seeker’s team wins 30 points.
The game, first played by students in Middlebury, Vermont, in 2005, has become popular among many students in Europe and North America. It is reported that globally there are more than 4,000 Quidditch players in more than 300 teams.
“It is a very intense sport, combining American football, basketball and soccer,” Liu says. “A lot of universities in the US have their own team.”
Before Li from Chengdu met Liu in Beijing in 2012, Li had been an experienced player.
“We used to play online through group chatting with instant messages. We input words stating our positions and movements, and referees would tell who got the balls and who scored first by the time we sent the messages. It was awesome and your fingers and your internet had to be fast enough.”
In the fall of 2012, when Liu came to Beijing to study at Peking University, Li, then a graduate student at Beijing Jiaotong University found her, hoping to play the Quidditch with her. They then formed the Beijing Quidditch Club.
Coincidently, a company saw Li’s Weibo (microblog) that said she also wanted to play Quidditch and decided to support her. As a result, they got the equipment for the game from the company — six hula hoops, six sticks, six parasol bases, volleyballs, soft volleyballs and tennis balls, and another 60 people who either were curious about how to play it or wanted to play.
After the first event, they had no other until the Beijing International Film Festival in June 2013, when Harry Potter fans could watch the eight films in the series in three days. Li and Liu met many other fans at the festival, and they later became club members.
In November 2014 the club organized the first league matches. Students from Peking University, Beijing Jiaotong University, Central University of Finance and Economics and China Foreign Affairs University formed four teams.
After preparation and training in September and October they played three games and the team from Peking University won the final.
Over the past two years the club has organized several activities to publicize the game.
The club has more than 100 members, including students and people who have worked. But over the past several years, there have been comings and goings.
“We have become great friends and often go to other activities such as Harry Potter only fairs and parties other than playing Quidditch,” Liu says.
In China there are only a few teams, in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.
“But our long-term goal is to bring our teams out of Beijing to compete in the international arena,” Li says.
Then the two waved their wands and started shooting the video.
Members of the Beijing Quidditch Club play the game.