By David Jonsson
Two NGBs, three rulebooks, and around half a million moose – Sweden’s relationship with quidditch could best be described as “it’s complicated.” But if your eyes are sharp, you may spot Swedish quidditch players trying to navigate the frozen wastes of the far north on their newly-acquired brooms.
Quidditch was first played in Sweden at the Harry Potter-convention Erised in 2008, with the rules being subject to significant modifications in the following years. “Swedish-rules” quidditch was more akin to handball than rugby and did away with the brooms, but clearly took some inspiration from the Middlebury College variant. The sport gained traction somewhat later, when the first Swedish championship was held in 2010 and went on to be played for three consecutive years, with a peak of nine participating teams in 2012. Somewhat surprisingly, Swedish-rules quidditch also gained some popularity in Denmark, with a Danish team finishing second at the 2011 championship. Unfortunately, even though an NGB was founded in the summer of 2013, that year’s championship fell through due to financial issues and time constraints. This punctured the quidditch balloon, and lack of interest forced the 2014 edition to be cancelled as well.
While the indigenous version of the sport had yet to reach its highpoint, LKPG Quidditch emerged as the first Swedish team to play by IQA rules. Founded in the fall of 2011, they soon established themselves as a “bring your own broom” kind of recreational team and they have had periodical activity ever since. And as if two sets of rules were not enough, one of the student unions at Lund University has hosted annual intramural tournaments since 2013, using their own unique rules.
LKPG remained the only Swedish team for close to four years, until Ingrid Segerstedts Gymnasiums Quidditchförening, later rebranded as the community team Gothenburg Griffins, was established at a high school in Gothenburg in early 2015. The two teams were soon joined by a team in Uppsala set up by Robert Pearce, now playing for the Exeter Eagles in the UK. Uppsala practiced for close to a year, but never really managed to establish themselves as a solid team and they have not had any activity after this summer.
Shortly after Uppsala’s demise, Harry Potter societies from three high schools in Stockholm got together to play quidditch in May earlier this year, laying the foundation for Sweden’s newest team, Stockholms QS.
With over a dozen universities and colleges, Stockholm has also benefited from an influx of foreign players on exchange, two of whom are on the German national team’s training squad.
With a growing quidditch community and an increasing need for coordination, the Swedish Quidditch Association (Svenska Quidditchförbundet, SvQF) was founded on June 30. A five-member board was tasked with organizing domestic competitive play and representing Swedish quidditch internationally. The SvQF is currently busy planning the first Swedish championship played according to IQA rules, set to take place early next year.
Up to this point, none of the Swedish teams had played a proper game by IQA rules. This changed when the Gothenburg Griffins were visited by NMBU Rumpeldunk from across the Norwegian border on Sept. 10, 2016. The 50 or so spectators got to watch an exciting game ending in a 120*-110 (OT) victory for the Swedes. Boosted by the success, players with their minds set on Oslo Open in October, tried to put together a Swedish mercenary team. After struggling to assemble a full team, they played the tournament as part of BSI Rumpeldunk, managing a surprising fifth-place finish after a decisive victory over Oslo-team GS Grizzlies in the lower bracket.
Among the challenges facing Swedish teams are the inhospitable conditions during the winter months, with little to no daylight and temperatures going below minus 20 degrees Celsius, even in the south, making it difficult to practice at all, especially considering the shortage of suitable indoor facilities in winter. With that quarter of the year virtually unplayable, the current quidditch season structure is impractical. In fact, the Swedish summer sport season runs from spring to fall (whereas the opposite is the norm on the continent), and this is something the Swedes may need to look into.
With three active teams, a national championship in the works, and an NGB on its way to becoming a full IQA-member, Swedish quidditch is on the right track. Even though it will take some time to catch up with the more established regions, dedication, hard work, and multiple layers of clothing will ensure the northerners are a force to be reckoned with in the future. Who knows, Sweden may even change its status to “in a relationship.”
Hugo Hallberg, Robert Pearce, and Sofia Pilström contributed reporting