By Linh Nguyen
This summer is getting hotter than ever for a reason that has nothing to do with climate change: quidditch! It is when the English cheer on their inaugural Quidditch Premier League season, while Oslo hosted the second European Games with more teams than the inaugural tournament two years ago, and Major League Quidditch’s headlining matches occur. Now heading to the Far East, a date has also been set for the second Asian Quidditch Cup on July 23, and the number of participating teams is two more than last year. As we can clearly see, quidditch is quickly expanding on a global scale. But how did it do in Asia, and what are the stories behind their progress?
Let’s first talk about the hosts of the 2016 Asian Quidditch Cup, Malaysia. Last year, the Damansara Dementors and Subang Chimaeras were joined by the Australian National University (ANU) Owls from Australia. The Subang Chimaeras have since stopped playing, mainly because most of the players had to further their studies overseas. Where the Damansara Dementors are concerned, they’ve managed to grow the team slightly and will compete at the upcoming Asian Quidditch Cup in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“A Team Malaysia is also being organised to take part in next year’s IQA World Cup, and tournaments like the Asian Quidditch Cup are just what our players need to gain more experience,” said Andrew Kasimir, captain of the Damansara Dementors [Editor’s Note: Andrew Kasimir is an author of this article].
Republic of Korea
The first and only World Cup participants from Asia so far have made progress after their experience in the largest quidditch event worldwide. They have been maintaining their team well while playing in regional events. Even though the impact from the World Cup was not as great as expected, with three out of their seven members (yes, team #NoSub) originally playing in the US and Germany, the other four returned home with new excitement from their first international experience and were ready to promote the sport to the community. For such a great cause, a bid to host the Asian Quidditch Cup 2017 in Seoul was filed in March. Although it wasn’t successful, the attempt has shown how organized their quidditch mindset has been and that they were very capable of maintaining and expanding their quidditch passion. The Seoul Puffskeins have recently confirmed their attendance at the Asian Quidditch Cup with 12 members on their roster.
“We came back with excitement, experience, and new things learnt, like how the actual game works and how other teams play, and we spread them in the team,” said Kim Sangbeom, who played on Team Korea at World Cup 2016. “It would be very good if other people on the team could gain tournament experience.”
Quidditch in Hong Kong has barely been mentioned for a while, though people know there is a team. Recently, it was revealed that the first quidditch team in Hong Kong was formed back in 2015 by some students from Hong Kong University, and originally the sport was played within the university only. However, due to lack of attendance, the community started to fade out. In late 2016, Au Thomas, a former Brizzlepuff (UK) player, returned to his home country and brought the team back to life. The team started anew, and training sessions were encouraged to be opened up to everyone interested across the country. The quidditch spirit was then revitalized, but indeed it didn’t guarantee a bed of roses. Similar to other Asian metropolitans, it was hard to find a natural grass pitch in the city; therefore, turf and rubber pitches were used as alternatives.
“Unlike in the UK, grass pitches are rare in Hong Kong, while others are always fully booked and we have to compete with people to grab a space via the online booking system,” said Thomas.
Thomas became a spiritual leader of quidditch in Hong Kong. Despite the struggles, they managed to host two training sessions recently, and launched a brand new Facebook page for quidditch in Hong Kong, replacing the inactive one created in 2015, sharing stories and updating training schedules on a regular basis. As the Asian Quidditch Cup 2017 is drawing near, some of the Hong Kong players are planning to join as mercenaries for the tournament, and it would be a great step forward to a wider recognition of quidditch in the country.
Quidditch appeared in Vietnam in 2014. Quidditch in Vietnam began not because of a recently-returned overseas student, but from information found on the Internet. The first team, GiantsQuid, was set up in Saigon late in 2014 and attracted a decent number of youngsters. As a new team with no actual experience, things were hard at the beginning, but the team managed to maintain their activities for more than half a year. The then-only quidditch team in Vietnam successfully attracted the media to an extent, and they were featured on several TV programs and online newspapers.
The initial success inspired the Draco Dormiens, the second team in the country, to form in Hanoi in the summer of 2015. Albeit active and gradually growing with somewhat-intermittent trainings for a year, the team did not compete at the Asian Quidditch Cup 2016 due to financial issues, as many of its members were students (and poor, of course). The team was then strengthened by the return of some overseas students who had actual quidditch experience, and morale and spirit were raised and kept high. They won the bid to host the Asian Quidditch Cup 2017 and supported the foundation of the second team in Hanoi, the Flame Owls, who will also debut at the regional club-scale tournament. So far, Hanoi quidkids have been well-known in the “Harry Potter” community and got some press coverage to a wider audience. They forecast an even greater impact on the media in the name of the upcoming Asian Quidditch Cup, which would be a boost for the growth of the sport in the country. With the help of their current overseas Vietnamese students, they are expected to become a recognised emerging area member of the IQA and take part in the IQA World Cup next year.
The current situation in Taiwan is that the “Harry Potter” fanbase is relatively large, but turning them on to real-life quidditch is a different story. Hao-Ting Wang, a quidditch veteran who spent most of her career in Yorkshire, UK, has tried a number of ways to start a proper quidditch team in the country, but it seems like college students were too shy or the right leader has not appeared yet.
“Taiwan is really convenient to travel to most of the Asian countries and the fare is really low,” Wang said. “I’d love to utilise that.”
It seems the only choice is to wait for the time to come, and hopefully we can see a Taiwanese quidditch team playing at a regional tournament soon.
China and Japan
Although there are pages about quidditch associations in mainland China and Japan, at the moment it seems like this is being abandoned for a while. Language barriers and differences in using social networks seem to be the key impediments. However, there are a decent number of Chinese and Japanese quidkids playing in North America and Europe, which may kindle a hope in these countries in the future.
Like other parts of the world, quidditch has been around in Asia for a while, but due to a number of obstacles, such as language barriers, travelling difficulty (high flight price, visa requirements), differences in communication platform, and limited financial capacity, the sport has been growing at a much slower pace than in other continents. However, there are people, some with actual competitive quidditch experience and great enthusiasm, trying to improve and expand the sport within their country. An unofficial committee of Asia and Oceania has been running to keep communities informed, along with social networks to act as information centres for people who want to set up quidditch teams in their area to contact, namely Quidditch Asia (run in both Facebook Page and Group) and the Asian Quidditch Cup Facebook Page. If they can keep this stable speed of improvement, it is not too soon to say there will be a World Cup qualification stage for Asian national teams.
Andrew Kasimir contributed reporting.