By Seppe De Wit
This year’s Belgian European Quidditch Cup (EQC) qualifier promised to be very exciting with nine teams competing for two European spots. Since they received only two spots instead of three like last tournament, the Belgian Quidditch Federation (BQF) tried to create a gameplay format that would give every team a fair chance to European qualification. Due to the unanimous agreed dominance of Antwerp A in Belgium, BQF built the tournament around the fight for second place through a double elimination system, with the final determining second and third place.
When we look at the tournament ranking, it is fair to say that we have two different levels of teams. Places one to five are where the fight for the EQC tickets happens, and places six to nine are not yet on the level for European play but are very closely matched with one another.
Places 1-5: The fight for EQC
Going into this tournament, there were five teams with real ambition for the top two spots. Brussels Qwaffles, Ghent Gargoyles, Liège Leviathans A, and Antwerp A all have experience playing at EQC. Next to this quartet was Antwerp B trying to secure their European debut.
The game that determined first place was played at 2:30 p.m., at the same time as another game, with four games still to be played; it was clear that the winner of first place was not the main interest of the tournament. The last game of the tournament was actually played between the loser of the final and the winner of the third-place final — with EQC qualification at stake.
On the road to the final, Antwerp A managed to defeat Liège A, quite comfortably leading 30-0 after only three minutes. It needs to be said that the Liège beaters put in a good effort to try to turn this situation around, which resulted in a slowdown of the Antwerp raid. However, Antwerp managed to stay patient and calm, eventually winning the game 130*-20. Another game featured a clash between two rivals: Ghent and Brussels. The start of this game was very tense and tied, as expected, but Ghent completely walked over Brussels with a very impressive second part of the game. They took advantage of the Qwaffles’ growing frustration and countered it with cold-blooded blitz attacks and calm, organised defence. Ghent caught the snitch, capturing a solid 170*-40 win.
The game between Antwerp A and the Ghent Gargoyles proved to be the final of this Belgian Cup. Knowing that they would have to play another game to defend their EQC ticket, it looked like Ghent saved some energy by putting key player Micah Unruh on the bench for almost half the game. Regardless, Ghent managed to stay very close to Antwerp until nearly the 18th minute, mostly thanks to their Norwegian-inspired, conservative bludger defence. Eventually, Antwerp pulled out with brilliant beater and chaser plays, and so they won their third consecutive Belgian title with a 110*-30 score.
As mentioned before, this game was not the end of the tournament with the bracket play for the EQC ticket still to be played.
This could not have started in a more dramatic way. Although the clear underdogs, Antwerp B beat Brussels, coming back from being 60-20 down. Viktor Marckx is due significant credit for the victory; scoring a hat trick and catching the snitch in 23 seconds, he led his team to a 80*-60 win and the third place final. There they met Liège A again, who had just won confidently over the Flaming Fwoopers 110-50*. Liège A was the favourite for this game since they had already won against Antwerp B in their first game of the day. The game looked to confirm this prediction with Liège leading 60-20 halfway and controlling the game. However, Antwerp B managed to do the unexpected again and came back to 60-50, when Marckx caught the snitch again, this time in 13 seconds. Antwerp B secured the bronze medal and a place in the EQC qualification final against Ghent, leaving Liège A empty-handed.
The final game of the tournament was easily the most intense of all the games. Ghent took a confident start with similar tactics they used against Antwerp A, and Unruh carried his team forward goal after goal. Antwerp B managed to answer this strong start from their opponent better than the previous games, hanging on to stay in range until the 18th minute. Being 30 points down, all eyes were fixed on the Antwerp seeker, who revealed himself as a top-level seeker this tournament. Antwerp did not manage to catch as fast as hoped and although only 20 points down for a moment, Ghent pulled the game steadily out of range. After 21 minutes, they forced Antwerp to put on a defensive seeker. Although Antwerp B kept fighting, Ghent’s lead grew and they eventually caught and won, 130*-50 — and more than deserved — the last EQC ticket. After missing EQC last year, the relief in the Ghent camp was enormous.
So now we know the two Belgian EQC participants: Antwerp A and Ghent Gargoyles. Both are promising teams who will represent Belgium well on the European quidditch scene.
Places 6-9: debuts vs. old glory
The last part of the ranking gave us some very close games. The Fwoopers managed to get the better of Liège B with a snitch catch comeback, winning 80*-60. Losing against Liège A and Brussels later on, the Fwoopers ended up in sixth place. The Tournai Thestrals got the better of Liége B in the fight for seventh place in a game that was tied before the catch thanks to fresher keeper Amaury Moulin stepping up his game together with the always well-performing Blaise Jottrand. The Fwoopers had a solid finish and the Thestrals and Liége B had a very good debut at Belgian Cup, but it will be the Dracognards going home a little disappointed. The EQC 2016 participant lost twice against the Thestrals, lost once against Liège B, and forfeited their last game. This is similar to what happened at last year’s Belgian Cup, so it will be their goal for next year to get that first win in two years with a wider squad and to finish the tournament.
The performance of these teams predicts an interesting league face-off between the Fwoopers and Liège B where they will probably fight for sixth place. Looking to the league, it is sad that the Thestrals are not competing in this year’s edition. Hopefully they can use this tournament as motivation to get stronger and bigger for next season with potential league participation.
Belgian Cup Evaluation
Belgian quidditch has made a small step forward with nine teams attending this year’s Belgian Cup compared to eight teams last year. While it was nice to see the debut of Liége Leviathans B and Tournai Thestrals, there also was the unfortunate dropout of the Bruges Bridgebacks.
Despite this progression, it appears as though quidditch in Belgium has barely grown despite winning EQC last year. More than ever was this stagnation visible with the venue being quite similar to previous editions: only two good quality pitches, basic locker rooms, barely any media coverage, and lots of unprofessional details such as a lack of communication systems on pitch and no referee shirts for all the referees, to name just a few. However, it needs to be said that despite the difficult communication and schedule, the tournament was reasonably run and all teams had a good time attending this edition. The tournament’s format also pleased most teams, with lots of interesting games and a fair shot at EQC for all teams. The only thing missing from this year’s tournament was a sense of competition for first place due to Antwerp A’s expected dominance, however this was an understandable change to the format due to this year’s EQC bid distribution. But it is not something that should become standard for future seasons.