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

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COVER STORY - By YANG YANG

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Mem­bers of the Bei­jing Quid­ditch Club play the game.

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