Harry Potter’s Quidditch game comes to life this weekend in Philadelphia

A silence falls over the pitch as the 14 players take a knee at either end of the field, close their eyes and set their brooms down. The silence is only momentary, as it is soon broken by a call from the referee: “The snitch is away. Brooms up!” And with that, the players are off and away to play a Quidditch match.

Yes, Quidditch.

The wizard sport of J.K. Rowling’s seminal Harry Potter book series, played on flying broomsticks, has leapt from the imagination of readers into the real world as one of the most interesting and quickly flourishing college sports in the nation.

This weekend you can see Quidditch matches on Saturday, Oct. 15, 12-6 p.m., during the Philadelphia Brotherly Love Cup Quidditch Tournament at Chestnut Hill College.

The community is also getting into the spirit and will be hosting a number of related events during its Harry Potter Weekend.

How it’s played

If you are finding it hard to imagine a real-life Quidditch game, it is quite a thing to behold. The game, still played on broomsticks, resembles, among other things, soccer, rugby, and dodge-ball being played simultaneously.

Three chasers on each team attempt to get the quaffle, a medium sized ball, into one of three goals, hula hoops atop various lengths of pipe, standing at the opponent’s side of the field. The chasers must contend with beaters, who attempt to hit them with red rubber dodgeballs to make them lose possession of the ball and return to their goal post, as well as with opposing chasers, who are attempting to both block and steal the ball from them.

The goal posts of each side are defended by a keeper, the goalie of Quidditch, who can guard the posts as well as lead chasers in a charge on an opposing goal.

Much like in the book and films, the introduction of the golden snitch into gameplay shakes it up significantly, making an already dramatic game even more exciting. The snitch, in this case an agile runner adorned in gold or yellow, is chased by the seekers of each team. Their goal is to grab a flag from the snitch’s shorts. The snitch and seekers are given free range to go outside the set boundaries of the field. The team who catches the snitch is awarded 10 points and signals the end of the game. Because of this, the length of a match can vary dramatically.

How it started

This version of Quidditch, or “muggle Quidditch” as it also known, was created at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, in 2005. From there, it grew from a small sport, played intramural and among a few local college campuses, to a genuine global phenomenon with the game being played all over the world.

At the center of the Quidditch movement is the International Quidditch Association (IQA), a non-profit organization that has been promoting the sport across the world since the organization’s formal inception just last year. The IQA’s mission statement is made up of three goals: to inspire creativity, community, and competition. They accomplish this by organizing tournaments across the world and presenting a center for Quidditch news.

The biggest event of the Quidditch world is undoubtedly the Quidditch World Cup. Held Nov. 12-13 at Randall’s Island in Manhattan this year, with 100 teams in the competition, the world cup is the epicenter of the sport.

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