njuries in this sport are brutal. I once saw someone’s skull crack open,” says Michael Belsole. The American sports enthusiast isn’t talking about rugby, American football or basketball but about muggle quidditch, the game that has moved from the magical world of Harry Potter to sports fields across the globe with the ninth world cup scheduled to be held in Germany this July.
Born in JK Rowling’s imagination and finding expression in Harry Potter book series, quidditch became even more popular when the author penned Quidditch Through The Ages, in which she explained the rules and history of the sport.
Soon, the sport caught on with the muggles ( the term for ‘ non- magic people’ in the Harry Potter realm), who adapted the game from players chasing each other on flying broomsticks into the real world, where contestants run around with the broom between their legs.
Belsole, a food truck entrepreneur in Mt Vernon, New York, played in the inaugural college season in 2008, but the first quidditch match took place in Middlebury College in Vermont on October 9, 2005 due to the initiative of students Xander Manshel and his friend Alex Benepe.
“At first, people either loved it or hated it. Luckily, a lot more loved it, so muggle quidditch began to grow,” says Benepe in an email interview. Since the college had just over 2,400 students, it began as a social activity. “It was fun and we hosted annual tournaments. The events started becoming intense and soon, other colleges began to participate,” adds Benepe, who is now the chief executive officer of US Quidditch, the organisation that governs the sport of quidditch in the US.
After Benepe graduated, he and his friends made muggle quidditch a non- profit league by launching the International Quidditch Association and hosting events in other colleges and cities. “Fortunately, social media was on the rise at the time,” he says. That, along with press coverage, spread the word about muggle quidditch.
The inaugural year of the sport saw the first Quidditch World Cup. It had 10 teams from Middlebury College alone. In the years since, the game has grown exponentially. Benepe says the largest participation was in the fifth edition, which saw 8,000 attendees in New York. The ninth edition, which is scheduled to be held this July in Frankfurt, will have teams from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, France, Brazil and Canada.
Besides the fictional platform in the Harry Potter series, the 9 ¾ rule – allowing members of either gender to play in one team – encourages all genders to participate and compete equally on the pitch. The International Quidditch Association states: “Quidditch takes those benefits a step further by promoting a sport that is truly free of gender- based restrictions.” In some cases, players do not use a broomstick while playing. They carry a long stick instead
Muggle quidditch can be rough, sometimes resulting in player injuries