Navigating to Norway: Team Belgium

By Grégoire Bourget

On July 8-9 2017, 15 national teams from all over Europe will compete in Oslo, Norway for the title of European Champion. The next article in our European Games 2017 series is on Team Belgium.

Roster

Soraya Abbagnato
Paul Bonnet
Hato Busson
Jens De Graeve
Nick De Leu
Seppe de Wit
Florian Dion
Jan Dubois
Faust Eeckhout
Sylvain Hochedé
Louis Lermytte
Jana Meers
Jerôme Noiret
Jade Olivier
Hanne Porres
Morgane Prime
Elisabeth Reyniers
Micah Unruh
Tim Van Huygevoort
Chayenne Van Meel
Nathan Wilputte

Belgium were ranked seventh at last year’s World Cup | Photo credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Interview with Head Coach Tim van Huygevoort

Quidditch Post: How are you preparing your team for European Games (EG)?
Van Huygevoort: I think in the same way like most of the other countries. We have one or two trainings per month. In the first part of the year, the trainings were more focused on selecting the final 28 and 21; afterwards, we mostly trained cohesion in the game, since our players come from multiple teams that have very different playing styles.

QP: What are you hoping to achieve at the tournament?
Van Huygevoort: Our captain, Seppe De Wit, clearly aims for the title. But with some players who were key players for their team at European Quidditch Cup (EQC) not being able to play for Belgium (Laurent Venckeleer, Emile Aerts, Noa Sangulin, and the list goes on), I think first place is still possible, but it will be a very difficult task.

QP: Which teams do you particularly want to play against?
Van Huygevoort: Basically the four teams we’re going to play on the first day. It will be a chance to play a lot of highintensity games and earn some experience for the players.

QP: What challenges have you had to face in the build-up to this tournament?
Van Huygevoort: Some players of the team were not able to come to a lot of practices.

QP: What are the strengths of your team?
Van Huygevoort: A nice mix of speed, technique, and strength among our players.

QP: Are there any key players we should watch out for?
Van Huygevoort: Sylvain Hochedé (already played for Norway and last year for France) could have a key role as a keeper (and seeker) for the team this year.

QP: Has the fact that Antwerp Quidditch Cup A won EQC 2017 changed anything in your preparation or in your objectives?
Van Huygevoort: It didn’t really have a great impact. We worked to be champions and became champions, just like we are doing with the national team

Chaser Seppe de Wit will captain Belgium at the European Games | Photo credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Analysis

by Fraser Posford

Belgian quidditch is on a high right now following Antwerp Quidditch Club A’s dramatic EQC triumph on home soil back in March. Belgian fans will be hoping that the Gryffins [the Belgian national team’s nickname] can follow in the Dodos’ [the former name of Antwerp Quidditch Club A] footsteps by taking the EG crown to replicate the European double achieved by the French in 2015.

Fresh from leading the Dodos to victory in Mechelen, chaser Seppe de Wit takes on the captain’s armband for the national side. De Wit always leads by example and is comfortable carrying his team’s offence; however, de Wit isn’t the only threat that this Gryffins roster possesses. Ghent Gargoyles’ keeper Micah Unruh really burst onto the international scene at the 2016 IQA Quidditch World Cup, excelling in matches against Australia and the USA thanks to his physicality. Chaser/keeper Nathan Wilputte has also greatly benefitted from their switch to Antwerp this season, becoming a much more dynamic quaffle carrier.

Team World captain Louis Lermytte is Belgium’s trump card. While true utility players appear to be a dying breed, certainly in elite level quidditch, the Dodo talisman proved throughout Antwerp’s EQC campaign that he can be a gamechanger in any position. Lermytte is likely to play a similar role in Oslo in which he can add his influence to any aspect of the Belgian gameplay that needs improving.

Lermytte is a threat in any colour headband | Photo credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The partnership of Elisabeth Reyniers and Faust Eeckhout continues to be Belgium’s strongest in the beater department thanks to the chemistry they have developed both with the Dodos and the national team. Belgium struggled in their aggressive bludger play when Eeckhout subbed off at World Cup last year, but with the addition of Eeckhout’s Antwerp protegé Jan Dubois, this deficit in talent looks to have been noticeably narrowed. Despite this, beating still appears to be the Gryffins’ Achilles heel and they may struggle to maintain bludger control against their fellow Group A opponents.

The absences of primary seeker Laurent Venckeleer and chaser Noa Sangulin (both of whom were voted into the EQC 2017 All Star team) are also not ideal for Belgium as both provide star quality to their respective positions. However, Liège Leviathans’ Sylvain Hochedé is a ready made replacement for Venckeleer in the seeker headband and Brussels Qwaffles’ Hato Busson will have the opportunity to shine in Sangulin’s place. This should be a stronger Belgium team than previous editions, and they are a team that are definitely contenders to win the tournament. However, compared to their rivals, the Gryffins still lack a bit of depth across their roster, which could ultimately be their downfall in the latter stages of bracket play, especially in longer matches.