On Saturday the brooms will be lifted in style and Europe’s best Quidditch players will come face to face with each other. Perhaps you will surprise those who did not know this sport. And those who watched the Harry Potter films will wonder how they got the flying brooms and magic balls, which unfortunately has not yet happened. As an alternative to a broom, we find a less shiny PVC stick that players have to carry between their legs all the time. It may seem ridiculous, but the mere fact of not being able to launch it at any time assumes additional difficulty becomes the main feature of the sport. Running, throwing balls, collecting them, fending off opponents and dealing with them … And all this with a “broom” between the legs.
Malaka Vikings is the name of the Malaga Quidditch team, and its boss, Salvador Mingorance, hopes the team can do well in the European Championships. “Spain has never won a championship. But the feeling is that he can do his best historical ranking,” says Mingourans. Expect them to finish in at least the top eight. “You can strike a good balance between veteran experience and outstanding youth,” adds Malaka Vikings chief.
The competition takes place in Limerick (Ireland) on July 23-24. In addition to Salvador Mingorans, Jesus Valverde, Alberto Garcia and Elena Fernandez are traveling from Malaga with Spanish club Quidditch. The latter two already have experience playing in international competitions. In fact, Alberto Garcia is the coach of the national team and has already participated in the World Cup in Florence (2018) and the European Championship in Bamberg in Germany (2019).
Despite their experience and track record, none of them are professional. All of them have jobs or are still students. Salvador is at UMA registered in Business and Management, while Alberto is a chef and Jesus works at Burger King. Rehearsals depend on the availability of team members, although they try to meet on Tuesdays and Sundays. Sometimes they train in the Parque de la Concordia in Alhaurín de la Torre or on the beach in Huelin, where more people can see them and thus attract the attention of anyone who wants to join. Elena Fernandez has it more complicated: she’s a nurse in Huelva, so she can’t go to train with the team. Although don’t miss the weekends when they play tournaments.
Malaka Vikings has become one of the best teams in Spain. They are the current champions and have experience in European club competitions thanks to their participation in the Copa del Rey. Among them, the European Quidditch Cup (EQC), the continent’s highest tournament, stands out, in which it ranked first among the top 16 teams across Europe. National expectations in Europe soared this year after the Dementors of Coruña won the European Quidditch Cup Second Division (EQC D2), something comparable to the European Football League.
The European Games is the name given to this weekend’s competition, in which twenty teams will compete, two of which are invited, Hong Kong and Australia. The UK and France are the favourites, two countries with the greatest Quidditch traditions in Europe and the only ones to have won this cup before. The British succeeded once, while the French succeeded twice. Also in the pools is Australia, the only team that managed to steal the World Cup from the United States. “It is not known what their level will be, because they come from so far, and it is not known which team they will bring. “Maybe a medium pick will come in,” Salvador Minjurans says.
And being a semi-professional sport, almost everyone has to pay for the entire tournament. Depending on the funds that the associations of each country have, they may support expeditions to a greater or lesser extent. In the case of a Spanish team, the federation pays the team for one of two nights’ accommodation. The rest is paid by the players, including travel and meals.
The group stage will take place on Saturday, with Spain facing France, Norway, Ireland and Sweden. Players expect Malaga to play for a few minutes, as the substitutions are unlimited. Matches don’t last long, but it is a very intense sport.
The time spent on each match is variable. And starting from the 18th minute, the golden snitch begins to play, which will be remembered by those who watched the Harry Potter films, because the ball is always caught by the hero and the match ends in victory. Again, not being able to have a magic ball fly independently, when the time comes, a neutral person jumps onto the court with a tennis ball strapped to his back at waist height. Also then, two players, called researchers, jump onto the field with the goal of stealing that ball. Once one of them gets it, he will add 30 points and the match will be over.
Another distinguishing rule of the sport is that it is a mixed competition, but there can only be a maximum of four men playing at the same time. Only six players per team play at the same time, except when those in charge of catching the snitch, who add another one, enter. Another factor to keep in mind is that Quidditch’s rules recognize that there are three genders: male, female, and non-binary. “In Spain, this rule goes even further and that teams have to play with at least two players,” explains Elena Fernandez. This forces teams to always have two players on the field and avoid having four men, one non-binary person and one woman in the lineup. “Although there is still a lot of work ahead to make this sport more equal,” concluded Elena Fernandez.