For those accustomed to taking an afternoon stroll in University Parks on Saturdays, there is probably an expectation of seeing some sort of sports practice. More than a few passers-by, however, have been surprised to encounter Oxford’s two Quidditch teams in training: hoops, brooms, and all.
Quidditch in the UK might not yet be what it’s become in the USA, but it is certainly a burgeoning endeavour. This year the university will host the inaugural British Quidditch Cup at the world’s first permanent Quidditch pitch, in Oxford’s very own University Parks, on the 9th-10th November 2013. Although the UK has seen two previous tournaments (both won by Oxford!), the BQC is big in a way that British Quidditch just hasn’t seen before. We’re talking sixteen teams, multiple pitches, group and knockout play, and a whole lot of pressure on the Radcliffe Chimeras to take home the trophy.
With the prospect of the first British team playing in the world cup next year, and the need for a UK squad to be selected for the 2014 Summer Games in Canada, the BQC promises to be the beginning of a new era for UK Quidditch. It is a particularly exciting time for Oxford, as we have the honour of hosting the event, and there are a lot of scores to settle, not least with Bangor’s Broken Broomsticks. Our first team, the Radcliffe Chimeras, have loved playing Bangor since our first match, a mud-strewn mêlée fought to a tenacious and exhilarating Oxford victory in the unforgiving maelstrom of an Edinburgh winter.
The matches have only become closer and the stakes risen even higher since then, with the Chimeras having met the Broken Broomsticks in two tournament finals over the course of 2013. In the first match of the Whiteknights Tournament, hosted in June by the Reading Rocs, a remarkable comeback and an excellent snitch-catch saw Bangor steal victory by the narrowest of margins to give the Chimeras their first ever defeat. Bangor’s elation lasted only a day or so, however, before the two teams played again in the final and a resurgent Oxford dominated in a way which entirely belied the nerves they were all feeling throughout the game. With yet another late-stage Chimeras-Bangor game, or a match against Keele, the erstwhile dominant force in British Quidditch before their defeat by the Chimeras in March 2012, on the horizon, there are grudge matches aplenty to anticipate alongside the debuting teams.