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Quidditch Cup brings “Potter” magic to life

Strap on your goggles and grab your Firebolt, it’s time for the fifth-annual Quidditch World Cup.

This weekend, one hundred teams will come together on Randall’s Island in New York to compete for glory, recognition, and of course, the Cup. But the World Cup is more than just a sports tournament: It’s also a social event that includes sideshows, stand-up comedians, food and drink, vendors, and at least one Wrock (wizard rock) concert. The finals matches will take place in Icahn Stadium, a venue that can accommodate 5,000 spectators.

The Cup is hosted by the International Quidditch Association, a non-profit organization focused on maintaining not only Quidditch leagues but also a sense of fellowship centered around a sport played all over the world.

The IQA has made it possible for Quidditch to transcend its humble beginnings as a fictional sport from the Harry Potter series. Though many of the players and enthusiasts are die-hard Potter fans themselves, the sport has become just that: A collegiate sport with international recognition. Teams like the Harvard Horntails of Massachusetts, the Vaasa Centaurs of Finland, and the Auckland University Quidditch team from New Zealand will all be in attendance this weekend.

Those who work in the international community do so because they love Quidditch and they love the people who play and watch it. The World Cup represents the culmination of those efforts–an international gathering of people with a mutual appreciation for the game.

Phil Palmer is a four-year veteran of the currently undefeated Middlebury University Quidditch team. In his own words, he “is and has always been a Chaser.”

It is clear from the way Palmer speaks about his team and their dedication to Quidditch is a very big deal at Middlebury. When asked how they would be defending their status as reigning champions, he said, “It all revolves around beater strategy, conditioning, athletic prowess, teamwork, crisp passing, sportsmanship, and a little bit of magic.”

The team is exemplary of what Muggle Quidditch (translation for non-Potter fans: “non-magic” Quidditch) is all about: teamwork, passion, and athleticism.  And it is no surprise, considering Middlebury University was the birthplace of Muggle Quidditch in 2005.

Deemed “The Only Fantasy Sport that Will Make You Break a Sweat,” Muggle Quidditch has made a spectacular ascent in the world of college sports. The 2011 Cup, expected to attract around 15,000 spectators, represents a milestone in that ascent.

The Quidditch craze is not just a passing fancy. As Palmer said, reflecting on last year, “The quality of play reached new heights and watching the joy on spectators’ and players’ faces alike inspired a sense of accomplishment for the things all of us in the IQA league have done.”

New leagues form every year all over the world. The kids who read Harry Potter for most of their lives now have the opportunity to play their beloved sport in high school, college, and beyond. Quidditch grew up with them, and the best way to celebrate it is with some good, healthy competition.

As Palmer put it, “Let’s keep the magic alive! May the best team win!”

See you on the pitch.

Valerie Taylor is an SFPA member.

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