By CHRISTOPH DRIESSEN
The magical sport of quidditch is fun even without getting airborne
Quidditch players, who run around with broomsticks between their legs, have quite a lot to put up with – including the rude catcalls they get from teenage onlookers.
But the members of the University of Bonn’s quidditch team, the Rheinos, don’t care.
It’s the sport of Harry Potter fame and when you see it on the silver screen, with players swooping above the pitch on flying broomsticks, it looks like a lot of fun.
But what if your broomstick doesn’t fly?
“I can’t explain it, you have to try it,” says Leander Troll, who’s studying for a doctorate in psychology.
“People understand straightaway when they play for the first time.”
The game appears confusing.
There are several balls; the quaffle with which the chasers score goals through the hoops at either end of the pitch; the two bludgers which the beaters try to hit at the opposing team to get them out; and the golden snitch, which the seeker has to try and catch for 150 points and which in the non-wizarding version of the game is carried by a neutral player in a sock tied to their belt.
It sounds like something only hardcore Harry Potter readers or filmgoers could get into.
But 16-year-old Leo Mueller hasn’t read the books or seen the films.
“I really only play because it’s such a cool sport,” he says.
Christian Zimpelmann, a 26-year-old economics PhD student who set up the Rheinos after getting into the sport while on an exchange in Canada, agrees.
“Harry Potter is really just the hook that makes it interesting at the beginning,” says Zimpelmann, who’s now a German national team player.
“But the reason people stick with it is because the sport’s really varied,” he adds, pointing out that quidditch only really took off several years after the peak of Harry Potter mania.
As they speak, an athletic-looking man crashes into a rather slight woman on the pitch behind them – he tackles her, as they say around here.
“Quidditch is the only full contact sport in the world in which men and women play together,” says Leander.
It’s not for the faint-hearted. “A real ‘face beat’, when you get a bludger in the face, can be really painful,” says Mueller.
But it’s the “physically tough and demanding” nature of the sport that 21-year-old Elena Lunz loves.
The hardest thing, she says, is catching the ball with one hand – with the other, you have to hang on to your broomstick.
Suddenly a car, very similar in appearance to a police car, drives up – but in fact it belongs to Germany’s Ministry for Magical Creatures.
The fictional authority, created by a group of fantasy fiction writers, has its own office in Bonn.
“Even as an adult you have to have a bit of fun,” says the driver, Hagen Ulrich. “We’re thinking about sponsoring the Quidditch players.”
Wizard ho, eh?