Quidditch is certainly one of Oxford’s quirkier phenomenons. How did a sport from Harry Potter become a sport in reality?
Well it all started off being played in America at Middlebury College, before being picked up by the Ivy League universities like Harvard and Princeton. Since then it had spread across America to the point where they have over 200 teams now, so it’s all very serious now: they have multiple tournaments on weekends and have hosted six world cups. This year is really when Quidditch as a sport spread overseas and an Oxford team was formed, by pure coincidence, at the same time as the organisation “Quidditch UK”, which co-ordinates between established teams.
In terms of specifically in Oxford, it started off quite spontaneously. My friend at Oxford Brookes challenged me to a match, which I accepted and so I formed the rest of the team. In the end we played Teddy Hall, and the inaugural match became Worcester verses Teddy Hall, although I remember Worcester getting hammered!
We played two matches, and those two teams came together to create the Oxford team, which exists now. Ever since then, we’ve grown rapidly. It’s so difficult to estimate numbers, but we always have enough for two practice teams. In terms of how I personally got involved, it was really a coincidence! I had absolutely no dreams of starting a Quidditch team when I came to Oxford. When I did get involved I only intended it to be just a couple of matches. But as I started playing I really got into it.
What is the weekly training schedule like for an Oxford Quidditch player?
So we play every Saturday at 12:00, and we also hold Wednesday training sessions for the really keen. To become a good Quidditch player, it will probably take a term to get into the game and to really understand rules and strategy. There are, after all, 4 balls, the snitch, the quaffle and two bludgers, in play at any one time and keeping all this in mind at the very start if often difficult. Having said that, you don’t need to have a grasp of the rules before coming up: it’s quite easy to learn as you start playing.
So you have a university team and inter-collegiate matches?
There are both. Some colleges have enough players to make full teams. My college, Worcester, sometimes is one but this varies: we certainly had enough last year for a team. University College are very serious about it, and can field three teams. If we have enough college teams, then we will look to expand this. However as I said, the focus is mainly on the Oxford team and I think that’s good because it gives a community atmosphere to the sport around Oxford: whenever I go to a social event or just on my bike around Oxford I see people who I know through Quidditch which is always nice.
Do you play other universities?
Yes, our upcoming match on the 24th November is against Reading, and then the big one is the British Quidditch Cup. I think we are probably going to win it because we are one of the biggest teams in the country and also biggest in the actual size of our players too! There are about 20 teams in the UK at the moment, so hopefully at least half of those will be at the tournament. I think it’s very much a growing sport, it’s growing in France so at the end of the term we are actually going to be touring France, rent a mini-bus and play the French team.
In the Harry Potter books, Quidditch is played on flying broomsticks. Obviously (and sadly) we can’t do this in real life, so how does the sport work?
You don’t fly obviously, but you have to keep a broomstick between your legs throughout the game. In general the rules are pretty much the same as in the books, although capturing the snitch is worth far less than the 150 points you get in the books, as this would make it unfair in reality. The snitch is also not a flying ball obviously, but a impartial player dressed in gold. The interesting thing about him is that he can run wherever he wants around Oxford while being pursued by both teams, so isn’t confined to the playing area of University Parks! The beaters throw bludgers at players, and if you are hit by one, you have to get off your broomstick, run back to touch your hoops, and then you are able to come back into the game.
It sounds really strange, but Quidditch is not as related to Harry Potter as everyone thinks. Obviously a lot of people who love Harry Potter love Quidditch, and we have lot of Potter fans; but I’m the captain of the team and I’ve read four of the books, but I play Quidditch for the sport itself. I think Quidditch is definitely a sport in its own right. We are loosely affiliated with the Harry Potter Society, just because it makes sense, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say we are a close part of it. In terms of sport
What are some of your favourite moments playing the sport?
There are so many! We once played snow Quidditch last year, where the spectators would throw snowballs at us while the match was in session. We were fortunate enough to play on a UK team in a tournament between Canada, USA, France and Australia in Oxford. It was particularly memorable for me, because I was the UK’s top scoring chaser!
Is it quite a social sport?
We do a bar crawl once every two weeks, and we do the whole crew date thing. We have played drinking Quidditch once, where both captains have to down a pint before playing the match, which made it a pretty interesting match