by Richard Turkowitsch
After a respectable showing of German teams at the European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2017 in Mechelen and a strong fifth place at the European Games 2017 in Oslo – where the German National Team was the only one who managed to break through the tier system – the eyes of the European community have been focused on Germany. With quidditch rapidly expanding this year and their regional leagues coming to a close, a quick overview of German quidditch is in order.
The League System
One of the defining factors of the German quidditch boom is the start of actual league play. The country is divided into six regional leagues. Each league consists of three to four teams who play each other twice (or three times) with rotating game days in the home cities of the participating teams (with a few exceptions). Concluding the season of league play is a separate tournament for the winner of each league.
Outside of the league system, there is also the German Championship, a tournament open to all German teams, as well as the EQC qualifier (formerly known as the German Winter Games) to determine which teams Germany sends to the next European Quidditch Cup.
1. Hamburg Werewolves (5-1, +440, 5 snitch catches)
2. Portkeys Bremen (3-3, +90, 4 snitch catches)
3. Braunschweiger Broomicorns (3-3, +50, 2 snitch catches)
4. Hannover Niffler (1-5, -580, 1 snitch catch)
Starting from the North, the Northern League was seen as one of the weaker leagues before the start of the season, thanks to the rather low finishes of the Northern teams at the German Winter Games. The entirety of the German community was taken by surprise when Hamburg Werewolves ended up with fourth place at the German Championships.
They probably should not have, though. With a whopping three wins out of three games, the Werewolves were sitting in a comfortable first place before the Championship break, including a massively offense-driven 250*-160 win against Portkeys Bremen. After complications led to the cancellation of the original Day Three of the League in Hamburg, the actual Day Three of the League took place in Braunschweig, and brought a surprise upset with the rise of the tactically–flexible Braunschweiger Broomicorns. Unable to bring a full roster on the first two days, they were finally able to field their full squad, keeping both Bremen and a decimated Hamburg out of snitch range, forcing both into cold catches, and only missing out on second place by league points.
Newcomers Hannover Niffler had to sit out the first three games for lack of players and joined league play on Day Two, striking a surprising win against Braunschweig. Even though Hannover missed out on the beginning of the League, the team played friendlies to gain some experience, and hence were able to play a respectable Day Three, even though they remained at the bottom of the rankings.
With Broomicorns growing stronger and Werewolves losing one of their key players, French National Team player Léonard Podetti, the Northern League stands to be even more exciting next year.
What should also be addressed is the strong community feeling between all the teams, especially visible at the German Championships with chants of “Nordkurve” (“Northern supporters”) by the other teams whenever one of the northern teams was on pitch, hitting their peak during a loud performance at Hamburg’s game against Darmstadt for third place.
1. Looping Lux Leipzig (5-1, +240, 5 snitch catches)
2. Berlin Bluecaps (4-2, +230, 4 snitch catches)
3. Jena Jobberknolls (0-6, -480, 0 snitch catches)
Generally perceived as the tightest of the regional leagues, the Eastern League unsurprisingly had the closest finish for first place. Sadly, this season the Eastern League consisted of only three teams, which meant a lot of rematches.
While Berin Bluecaps are the older, more experienced, and tactically secure team, Leipzig’s strong beater play and impeccable seeker squad with Ruben Lampe and German National Team seeker Jan Kohler gave Looping Lux the upper hand in the first two very closely–contested games. Leipzig started Day Three as the frontrunner; however, Berlin managed to defeat a slightly weakened Leipzig squad, though Leipzig still managed to finish in first place by beating Jena Jobberknolls in the third game. Despite not winning a single game this league, Jena still made tremendous strides in their chaser play during the year, measurable by their strong showing at the German Championship where they managed to come in 12th.
North Rhine-Westphalia League (NRW) League
1. Rheinos Bonn (6-0, +600, 5 snitch catches)
2. Ruhr Phoenix (4-2, +100, 4 snitch catches)
3. Bielefelder Basilisken (1-5, -320, 2 snitch catches)
4. Münster Marauders (1-5, -380, 1 snitch catch)
Seen as arguably the strongest of all regional leagues, the NRW League played a separate season of pre-league play during the autumn of 2016 (which did not count to the rankings), before beginning their official season along with the other regional leagues. As was expected, Rheinos Bonn, winners of both the 2017 German Winter Games and the aforementioned pre-season competition, dominated the group. Their athleticism and physicality could not be matched by any of the other teams, not even long running top-tier team Ruhr Phoenix from Bochum. While Phoenix finished in a comfortable second place, the team were physically outmatched against Rheinos and lost with scores of 150*-30 and 90*-10.
Both Bielefelder Basilisken and Münster Marauders were unable to win against either of the top teams. Nevertheless, Bielefeld and Münster have shown great progress in their gameplay, earning them 17th and 14th place, respectively, at the German Cup in Jena. In the league ranking, Bielefelder had the upper hand thanks to higher points and an additional snitch catch in their game against Rheinos Bonn on Day Two.
The level of support the NRW teams give each other and the strong camaraderie generally has to be noted. The supportive chants of “NRW” at the German Championship whenever a team of the league was on pitch demonstrated how tight-knit the teams have become and likely started the trend of other leagues doing similar chants.
1. Darmstadt Athenas (6-0, +600, 3 snitch catches)
2. Frankfurt Mainticores (3-3, -30, 2 snitch catches)
3. Broom Breakers Quidditch (3-3, -50, 4 snitch catches)
4. Binger Beasts (0-6, -520, 3 snitch catches)
As was to be expected, Darmstadt Athenas, Germany’s oldest club, were playing in a league of their own, not losing a single game to any of the other teams. Darmstadt excelled in all their games, even when not playing with a full roster or giving less experienced players a lot of time on pitch – a move which led to their first snitch catch by a non-male player, Sonja Lenhardt, against Binger Beasts. Darmstadt’s comparatively low amount of snitch catches speaks in their favor, since opposing teams went for the cold catch every so often to end the game and preserve energy.
The steadfast Frankfurt Manticores were plagued by injuries, while Broom Breakers Quidditch (from Rheinland-Pfalz) made great progress, making the battle for second place closer than many expected. The deciding games came on Day Three when both teams played against newcomer Binger Beasts. While both managed to beat the Beasts, Frankfurt’s defense was stronger, resulting in fewer goals for Bingen and securing Frankfurt second spot in the rankings. The other and more surprising story of Day Three was the Broom Breaker’s head start against Darmstadt Athenas. The Broom Breakers learned from the Hamburg Werewolves vs. Darmstadt game during the German Cup how to give the Athenas a hard time by exploiting their weaknesses against strong passing and deliberate drives. In the end Darmstadt regained their focus and managed to play out their athleticism and physicality to secure the expected win. However, the Broom Breakers still managed to show others how it could be done.
While newcomers Binger Beasts did not manage to secure a win, their strong showing on the second day of the German Cup as well as their ferocious tackling showed that Bingen is a name to be reckoned with in the future, as the relatively new team gains more tournament experience and tactical knowledge.
Baden-Württemberg (BaWü) League
1. Tübinger Thestrale (6-0, +350, 2 snitch catches)
2. Black Forest Bowtruckles (4-2, +150, 4 snitch catches)
3. Flying Foxes Karlsruhe (1-5, -210, 4 snitch catches)
4. Heidelberger HellHounds (1-5, -290, 2 snitch catches)
The BaWü League in Germany’s SouthWest is another league that had potential for an upset. Tübinger Thestrale (from the University city of Tübingen) were seen as favorites. This is due to their strong showing at German Winter Games, where they landed in sixth place, as well as the acquisition of experienced players: ex-Aemona Argonauts (and short-time Three River Dragons) beater Borut Bezgovšek and Team World seeker Verena Deutsch. Still, Freiburg’s Black Forest Bowtruckles, despite being in sort of a transitional season thanks to changes in the coaching line-up, were seen as another contender for the title. Indeed, thanks to scheduling issues, Freiburg dominated the group after Day One, which did not include any Tübingen games. The game between Freiburg and Tübingen on Day Three ended with a 120*-60 win for Tübingen. A very exciting Day Three saw Tübingen go into overtime against newcomers Flying Foxes, but winning strongly against injury-plagued Bowtruckles secured the title for the Thestrale. Not even a surprisingly close game against Heidelberger HellHounds could change this.
Both Flying Foxes Karlsruhe – who surprised with their well-rounded beater game, not a given for a team this young – and Heidelberger HellHounds have shown measurable progress throughout the season. Heidelberg came dead last at German Winter Games, but managed to come in 16th at the German Cup, while Karlsruhe finished third in the BaWü league table, getting ahead of Heidelberg in both league points and snitch catches thanks to a very strong performance on Day Four.
1. Three River Dragons Passau (5-1, +400, 5 snitch catches)
2. Münchener Wolpertinger (3-3, -10, 3 snitch catches)
3. Augsburg Owls (1-5, -390, 1 snitch catch)
Finally, in the very south of the country, another contender for the title of strongest league is the Bavaria League. Prior to the start of the season, few people would have seen the league as generally strong, with Münchner Wolpertinger and Augsburg Owls having finished 13th and 14th out of 18 at German Winter Games on familiar territory in Munich. But the teams showed that they could do more, having the best finishes at German Cup of any league. Three River Dragons won the championship, Wolpertinger finished eighth, and Augsburg came in 15th out of 21.
As for league play itself, sadly the Bavaria League was relatively small with only three teams competing. Also unusual was the fact that all three days took place in Munich, as Augsburg and Passau could not provide pitches and the three teams chose to meet in the middle.
Three River Dragons Passau dominated the league easily, comfortably securing the title on Day Two, allowing them the opportunity to give less experienced players more time on pitch. Münchner Wolpertinger landed in the expected second spot, winning all games against Augsburg Owls while losing all games to the Dragons. Third place Augsburg Owls managed the biggest upset of the entire German league system by winning the last game against Passau on Day Three. Passau not bringing a full roster and missing both coaches might have helped, but the Owls’ 70-40* win will deservedly be Augsburg’s pride thanks to a strong team effort.
Proof of how close–knit the Bavaria League is can be seen by their shared merc team called the Bavarian Barbarians, which also includes players of possible future Bavaria League participant Kelpies Bamberg Quidditch and fellow Bavarians Broom Breakers from the Rhein-Main League.
All of this will conclude in a final tournament on October 15 in Bad Honnef near Bonn called the Ligafinale. The qualified teams are Hamburg Werewolves, Looping Lux Leipzig, Rheinos Bonn, Darmstadt Athenas, Tübinger Thestrale, and Three River Dragons Passau.
Unfortunately, the Dragons have already cancelled their visit to the final tournament due to their prior commitment to play at another tournament on the same date. Their qualifying spot would have automatically gone to Bavarian League runners-up, Münchner Wolpertinger who have declined the invitation as well. Therefore, the tournament will only be played with five teams.
Sub-league quidditch in Germany is also thriving and one would be amiss not to mention the progress that developing teams have made in 2017. Two smaller tournaments in particular have to be noted.
Düsseldorf Dementors Quidditch and Cologne Cannons Quidditch from NRW and Trier Thunderbirds from Rheinland-Pfalz (a state not yet integrated into the league system) played in the so-called West German Junior Tournament in June, giving the three developing teams a chance to play against one another. Düsseldorf Dementors twice emerged victorious, while Trier Thunderbirds won the game against Cologne Cannons.
In the East of Germany, Berlin Bluecaps hosted a similar Junior Tournament in July, pitting their younger players (under the moniker “Blaukäppchen”, a minimalization of Bluecaps) against newer team Berlin Bludgers (with a few players of SkyHogs Berlin as guests) and recreational team SanssouSea Serpents from Potsdam. Blaukäppchen won both of their games easily with Serpents winning their game against the Bludgers. In addition to these tournaments, various smaller friendlies were played, for example Bielefelder Basilisken playing an in-town friendly against new team Bielefeld Bludgers.
The emergence of several smaller teams demonstrates great progress in German quidditch, and it remains to be seen how many of these teams will be joining the German League in 2018. Strong candidates for inclusion are Dobby’s Klatscher from Oldenburg for the Northern League, Deluminators Dresden and Halle Horcruxes for the Eastern League, Mannheimer Greife for the BaWü League, and possibly the aforementioned Bamberg Kelpies for the Bavarian League.
All of this is further proof of German quidditch being on the rise. The next tournament to watch out for after the League Finals will be the EQC qualifier, the German Winter Games, which will be held on November 4 and 5 in the city of Bremen. Here, 16 teams will play against each other for a spot in the European Quidditch Cup 2018. Next, the “Ice Cup” will take place in Bamberg on December 2 and 3, a tournament created specifically for teams who did not qualify for the German Winter Games.
Bastian Braun, Nadine Cyrannek, Fabian Haake, Fenja Höbling, Jenny Krafczyk, Ruben Lampe, René Nowag, Thorsten Ostermeier, and Henriette Schreurs contributed to reporting.