No flying, but there is a snitch to chase: quidditch in real-life

Catalan Quidditch Association is a founding member of the international organizing body of the once purely fictional sport

Image of the 2021 Quidditch Copa Catalunya (by Quidditch Catalunya)
Image of the 2021 Quidditch Copa Catalunya (by Quidditch Catalunya) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 3, 2022 09:31 AM

The fictional sport of quidditch, played flying through the air on brooms and chasing a small also airborne ball called a snitch, may be well known to Harry Potter fans, but the game also has a real-life version too.

Thousands of players worldwide give their time, commitment, and passion to the muggle’s version of the game, and the Catalan league is contested by around 100 players.

Martí Sala Morral, president of the Catalan Quidditch Association, joked to Catalan News that the first thing he is always asked by people unfamiliar with the sport is “Do you fly?” 

Players, of course, don’t fly in real life as they do in the Harry Potter series, but instead, they hold a broom-like stick of around one meter’s length between their legs at all times. This serves as a handicap – similar to having to bounce a ball in basketball, or not using your hands in football – to slow players down or else require them to use only one hand to catch and throw one of the balls. 

For a comparison, Sala describes real-life quidditch as “a combination of rugby, handball, and dodgeball.” The game is played on a rectangular field, with three hoops set at different heights serving as goals which players score points by throwing the ball through. 

Each team has 7 players, and clubs usually have 12-16 players on its roster, with rolling substitutions allowed at all times. 

Catching the snitch

The snitch is represented by a neutral player on the field that enters in the 17th minute of the game that both sides chase. This neutral player holds a tennis ball inside a sock around their waist that one player from either team will try to catch. Once it’s caught, points are awarded to that team, and the game is over. 

It grants you 30 points, “quite a lot,” Sala says, however, he adds that it isn’t too much to define the outcome of the match as much as it can in the fictional wizard series. 

Additionally, quidditch is also one of the most gender-equal and inclusive sports around. “The sport is a mixed-gender sport so there are men and women playing [together],” Sala explained. At most, teams cannot have more than four players identifying as the same gender on the field at one time. 

International competition

The Catalan Quidditch Association were founding members of the International Quidditch Association, and they are the body in charge of organizing the Catalan League, played across the whole year, as well as the Copa Catalunya, played over one weekend. The winner of the Copa Catalunya qualifies for the European Quidditch Cup, the equivalent of the Champions League for quidditch.

Additionally, there are also international tournaments, where national teams compete. Having been established from its own association before Spanish teams set up a Spanish organization, Catalonia competes separately from Spain in national team competitions. There have even been occasions where the two teams have faced off against one another. 

Late July 2022 will see the next European Quidditch Games take place, with Catalonia sending a side to Limerick, Ireland, to compete. The team even counts on players living in other countries who get the call-up. “There is one player from Berlin Bluecaps that is Catalan and is in the national team,” Sala explains. 

It may be a minority sport, but players from across Catalonia and indeed the continent and world have huge levels of dedication for the game they love, willing to spend their time and efforts into traveling around Europe to experience the pride of representing their team and country. 

As Sala puts it: “There’s that commitment, we’re not just playing every year, we’re training usually weekly and also with the Catalan league we are playing every month.”