France just beat the Brits in the first final of the European Quidditch Games, even after the French side’s main keeper broke his shoulder. No, seriously — the game invented by author J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series can be played in real life.
The "Muggle" (Rowling's word for non-magical people) version of the game is becoming popular around the world, apparently, reports NPR's Melissa Block. While covering the inaugural European Quidditch Games, she spoke to tournament director Karen Kumaki, who told her that over the years, people who initially got involved as fans now want the sport to be divorced from its fictitious past.
Of course, some modifications were needed to the game as described in the book. In Rowling’s series, two teams of seven players zoom about the pitch on broomsticks, dodge and beat away two magically flying bludgers and search for the elusive, winged golden snitch, all while while trying to score through three hoops with the quaffle. (For those unfamiliar with the books or movies, these made-up words all represent different kinds of balls in Quidditch.)
In Muggle Quidditch, players hold a stick representing a broom between their legs. The flying Snitch is attached to the shorts of one player, who tries to elude capture by the seekers. Beaters on each team throw dodgeballs to knock opposing players out of play for a short period of time. “Other than the fact we’re not flying, it’s full contact and quite rough, just as it was in the books,” says University of Oxford Quidditch player Jan Mikolajczak in a Guardian story by Rosie Scammell.
There’s even an official governing body, the International Quidditch Association or IQA, though some countries have their own ruling bodies. The IQA reports that more than 300 teams in 20 countries play the game.
The French keeper’s injury was sustained during fully legal, if aggressive, play. For a hint at how intense the game can be, take a look at this video of the Quidditch World Cup final in 2014, in which Texas State faces off against the University of Texas:
While the players may be serious about the legitimacy of the game, they certainly need some sense of humor to run around a field with a broom between their legs. But what sport wouldn't seem just as strange if viewed with unfamiliar eyes?