Quidditch Through the Ages Read online

Page 4



  Chapter Eight

  The Spread of Quidditch Worldwide

  Europe

  Quidditch was well established in Ireland by the fourteenth century, as proved by Zacharias Mumps’s account of a match in 1385: ‘A team of Warlocks from Cork flew over for a game in Lancashire and did offend the locals by beating their heroes soundly. The Irishmen knew tricks with the Quaffle that had not been seen in Lancashire before and had to flee the village for fear of their lives when the crowd drew out their wands and gave chase.’

  Diverse sources show that the game had spread into other parts of Europe by the early fifteenth century. We know that Norway was an early convert to the game (could Goodwin Kneen’s cousin Olaf have introduced the game there?) because of the verse written by the poet Ingolfr the Iambic in the early 1400s:

  Oh, the thrill of the chase as I soar through the air

  With the Snitch up ahead and the wind in my hair

  As I draw ever closer, the crowd gives a shout

  But then comes a Bludger and I am knocked out.

  Around the same time, the French wizard Malecrit wrote the following lines in his play Hélas, j’ai Transfiguré mes Pieds (‘Alas, I’ve Transfigured My Feet’):

  GRENOUILLE : I cannot go with you to the market today, Crapaud.

  CRAPAUD : But Grenouille, I cannot carry the cow alone.

  GRENOUILLE : You know, Crapaud, that I am to be Keeper this morning. Who will stop the Quaffle if I do not?

  The year 1473 saw the first ever Quidditch World Cup, though the nations represented were all European. The nonappearance of teams from more distant nations may be put down to the collapse of owls bearing letters of invitation, the reluctance of those invited to make such a long and perilous journey, or perhaps a simple preference for staying at home.

  The final between Transylvania and Flanders has gone down in history as the most violent of all time and many of the fouls then recorded had never been seen before — for instance, the Transfiguration of a Chaser into a polecat, the attempted decapitation of a Keeper with a broadsword and the release, from under the robes of the Transylvanian Captain, of a hundred blood-sucking vampire bats.

  The World Cup has since been held every four years, though it was not until the seventeenth century that non-European teams turned up to compete. In 1652 the European Cup was established, and it has been played every three years since.

  Of the many superb European teams, perhaps the Bulgarian Vratsa Vultures is most renowned. Seven times European Cup winners, the Vratsa Vultures are undoubtedly one of the most thrilling teams in the world to watch, pioneers of the long goal (shooting from well outside the scoring area) and always willing to give new players a chance to make a name for themselves.

  In France the frequent League winners the Quiberon Quafflepunchers are famed for their flamboyant play as much as for their shocking-pink robes. In Germany we find the Heidelberg Harriers, the team that the Irish Captain Darren O’Hare once famously said was ‘fiercer than a dragon and twice as clever’. Luxembourg, always a strong Quidditch nation, has given us the Bigonville Bombers, celebrated for their offensive strategies and always among the top goal-scorers. The Portuguese team Braga Broomfleet have recently broken through into the top levels of the sport with their groundbreaking Beater-marking system; and the Polish Grodzisk Goblins gave us arguably the world’s most innovative Seeker, Josef Wronski.

  Australia and New Zealand

  Quidditch was introduced to New Zealand some time in the seventeenth century, allegedly by a team of European herbologists who had gone on an expedition there to research magical plants and fungi. We are told that after a long day’s toil collecting samples, these witches and wizards let off steam by playing Quidditch under the bemused gaze of the local magical community. The New Zealand Ministry of Magic has certainly spent much time and money preventing Muggles getting hold of Maori art of that period which clearly depicts white wizards playing Quidditch (these carvings and paintings arc now on display at the Ministry of Magic in Wellington).

  The spread of Quidditch to Australia is believed to have occurred some time in the eighteenth century. Australia may be said to be an ideal Quidditch-playing territory, given the great expanses of uninhabited outback where Quidditch pitches may be established.

  Antipodean teams have always thrilled European crowds with their speed and showmanship. Among the best are the Moutohora Macaws (New Zealand), with their famous red, yellow and blue robes and their phoenix mascot Sparky. The Thundelarra Thunderers and the Woollongong Warriors have dominated the Australian League for the best part of a century. Their enmity is legendary among the Australian magical community, so much so that a popular response to an unlikely claim or boast is ‘Yeah, and I think I’ll volunteer to ref the next Thunderer-Warrior game’.

  Africa

  The broomstick was probably introduced to the African continent by European wizards and witches travelling there in search of information on alchemy and astronomy, subjects in which African wizards have always been particularly skilled. Though not yet as widely played as in Europe, Quidditch is becoming increasingly popular throughout the African continent.

  Uganda in particular is emerging as a keen Quidditch-playing nation. Their most notable club, the Patonga Proudsticks, held the Montrose Magpies to a draw in 1986 to the astonishment of most of the Quidditch-playing world. Six Proudstick players recently represented Uganda in the Quidditch World Cup, the highest number of fliers from a single team ever united on a national side. Other African teams of note include the Tchamba Charmers (Togo), masters of the reverse-pass; the Gimbi Giant-Slayers (Ethiopia), twice winners of the All-Africa Cup; and the Sumbawanga Sunrays (Tanzania), a highly popular team whose formation looping has delighted crowds across the world.

  North America

  Quidditch reached the North American continent in the early seventeenth century, although it was slow to take hold there owing to the great intensity of anti-wizarding feeling unfortunately exported from Europe at the same time. The great caution exercised by wizard settlers, many of whom had hoped to find less prejudice in the New World, tended to restrict the growth of the game in its early days.

  In later times, however, Canada has given us three of the most accomplished Quidditch teams in the world: the Moose Jaw Meteorites, the Haileybury Hammers and the Stonewall Stormers. The Meteorites were threatened with disbandment in the 1970s owing to their persistent practice of performing post-match victory flights over neighbouring towns and villages while trailing fiery sparks from their broom tails. The team now confines this tradition to the pitch at the end of each match and Meteorite games consequently remain a great wizarding tourist attraction.

  The United States has not produced as many world-class Quidditch teams as other nations because the game has had to compete with the American broom game Quodpot. A variant of Quidditch, Quodpot was invented by the eighteenth-century wizard Abraham Peasegood, who had brought a Quaffle with him from the old country and intended to recruit a Quidditch team. The story goes that Peasegood’s Quaffle had inadvertently come into contact with the tip of his wand in his trunk, so that when he finally took it out and began to throw it around in a casual manner, it exploded in his face. Peasegood, whose sense of humour appears to have been robust, promptly set out to recreate the effect on a series of leather balls and soon all thought of Quidditch was forgotten as he and his friends developed a game which centred on the explosive properties of the newly renamed ‘Quod’.

  There are eleven players a side in the game of Quodpot. They throw the Quod, or modified Quaffle, from team member to member, attempting to get it into the ‘pot’ at the end of the pitch before it explodes. Any player in possession of the Quod when it explodes must leave the pitch. Once the Quod is safely in the ‘pot’ (a small cauldron containing a solution which will prevent the Quod exploding), the scorer’s team is awarded a point and a new Quod is brought on to the pitch. Quodpot has had some success as a minority sport in Europe, th