By Richard Turkowitsch
The fastest–growing NGB of Europe — currently representing 37 full member teams, five developing member teams, and two (soon to be three) kidditch teams — is sending their biggest ever delegation to the European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2018 with four squads representing the Teutonic power, hoping to replicate the successes of the national team at European Games (EG) 2017. While for some the draw has been less than fortunate, it pays to have a look at each individual team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Mention will be made of the following German tournaments: Deutsche Quidditchspiele (DQS), Germany’s EQC qualifier featuring German quidditch’s best 16 teams, Deutsche Meisterschaft (DM), Germany’s longest-running tournament, pitting all German quidditch teams against each other, and Ligafinale, the final tournament of the winners of Germany’s six regional leagues.
Germany’s tallest team had one of the hardest roads to the EQC, losing to Three River Dragons Passau and then having to beat both Hamburg Werewolves and Berlin Bluecaps at DQS on their way to the qualification spots.
They are known for their precise passing play as well as hyper-aggressive beating, and despite not yet earning a prestigious title at any large German tournaments, the Athenas are one of Germany’s top teams. Thanks to the draw, they have what might be the best chance of any of the German teams to make it to the EQC final.
As one of the most physical teams in the comparatively un-physical world of German quidditch, Darmstadt have found European competition more manageable than some of their German peers in the past. Their almost American football-esque balance between pass and run plays will certainly work well for them. Tall chasers often have the problem of being bigger targets for opposing beaters, but the Athenas’ tall chaser/keeper squad of Simon Burgis, Nadine Cyrannek, Patrick van Halem (all German national team players), and Christian Plesker are legendary for dodging and blocking beats, making them able to fully play out their physical dominance. The skilled aggressive beating by Steffen Wirsching and Madline Fischer as well as the seeking talents of the aforementioned Burgis and DQS breakout star Jadena Bechtel give Darmstadt all the makings of a well-rounded team fit for any battle. The addition of experienced former Frankfurt Mainticores chaser/keeper/seeker triple threat Thorsten Ostermeier certainly won’t hurt.
The team’s lack of ability to stay calm under pressure and adapt to in-game changes will limit the Athenas. Their loss to Rheinos Bonn in the Ligafinale final is the stuff of legends, when Athenas weren’t able to hold on to a 80-point lead and were subsequently dragged into overtime where they were eventually beat by the Rheinos. And while most of Darmstadt’s few losses have come at the hands of physically and athletically stronger teams, some have shown it is comparatively easy to outmanoeuvre the Athenas, most notably in games against Three River Dragons Passau, Hamburg Werewolves at DM, and Broom Breakers Quidditch at Day Three of last year’s Rhein-Main League. It should be noted, though, that apart from the Passau games, Darmstadt were able to win all of those games.
What remains to be seen is how robust a team the Athenas can be. Both Paris Frog and Green–Tauros Torino are known for hyper-physical and aggressive chaser play and will be more than happy to disrupt Darmstadt’s passing play, forcing them to drive and throwing off their balance. If they can overcome their opponents’ physicality, the Athenas are a definite candidate for the semifinals. Considering their track record of not dealing too well with adapting once their first strategy doesn’t work, an EQC win would probably still be a bit of a stretch.
Probably the most surprising team to emerge from DQS with a spot for EQC, Munich’s own Wolpertinger can only surpass people’s expectations. Not having won any prestigious tournaments and contributing only a single player to the German national team, few in the German quidditch community would have expected them to even qualify. Even after their respectable showing led them to the DQS finals where they lost to Rheinos Bonn, most were quick to shrug off their success to an easy group stage and luck of the draw in the playoffs.
There seems to be a tendency in the community as a whole to undervalue Munich. Exceeding expectations at every tournament, they finished 13th out of 18 as a brand new team at German Winter Games (the precursor to DQS) and finished eighth at DM 2017. Also, while it’s undoubtedly true that at DQS Wolpertinger avoided juggernauts like Darmstadt or Passau on their way to the final, their win against Berlin Bluecaps who had earlier knocked out Eastern League winners Looping Lux Leipzig — seen by most German quidditch spectators as one of the top favorites for the fourth EQC spot — was no less impressive.
Star players are few and far between on the Wolpertinger’s roster, but there are some familiar names. German national team beater Oda Schiøtz is certainly the most well-known name on the roster, and deservedly so, but the team’s MVP at DQS was undoubtedly fellow Norwegian import Christian Forner, whose multi-talents as a keeper in both defense as well as a driver and in classic offensive play construction make him Munich’s jack of all trades. Other notable names on the squad like chaser/seeker Bastian Braun or beater René Schneider are not the flashiest of players, but lay massively important groundwork on which Wolpertinger can rely in tough situations. Hurting the team is the loss of beater powerhouse Maya Wheldon to injury, leaving Schiøtz as by far their strongest non-male beater option, a loss made all the more bitter by the fact that Wheldon was a key player in bringing the EQC to Pfaffenhofen in the first place. A certain lack of physicality and players who can tackle opponents could also prove to make things a lot harder.
Helping the ‘Tinger was a relatively easy draw for the team, landing them in Group H among OSI Vikings, Vienna Vanguards, and newcomers Gothenburg Griffins. Both Vikings as well as Vanguards are certainly no teams to scoff at but they each have proven to be beatable, with OSI missing out on the upper bracket at last year’s EQC (even if they won the lower bracket final) and Vanguards showing a tendency to lose their nerves at big tournaments, such as last year’s EQC where they lost in the quarterfinals. Munich have a valid chance at making upper bracket. However, if they do, anything but a first round knockout would be surprising. But then again, if any German team is known for surprising anyone, it’s Münchner Wolpertinger.
Dominating German quidditch ever since their inception in 2015 and never finishing worse than second in any of Germany’s large tournaments, Rheinos Bonn would be seen by anyone as Germany’s biggest hope for a title contender at EQC, were it not for a mischievous little thing we call “luck of the draw” pitting them in one of the toughest groups against two-time EQC winners Paris Titans and NTNUI Rumpeldunk who managed to beat the former at EQC 2017. There’s also the problem of Rheinos having underperformed in European gameplay so far, only managing to reach the lower bracket in 2016 and 2017. Rheinos have a lot to prove and one can only expect them to be ready to prove it.
The Rhinelanders boast an impressive six German national team players, and four of them are part of their squad for this tournament: keepers/chasers Anneke Müller and Ewelina Wolska and scorer threat Leander Troll. They also have feared beater journeyman Leon Bürgers who, despite his young age, already boasts a great deal of experience, not only with Rheinos and Team Germany, but also at Intergalaktik Cup, Valentines Cup, Cottonopolis as a guest player for Sheffield Squids, and he will also play for Northern Watch in the upcoming QPL 2018 season. Adding to that is former Team Germany head coach Christian Zimpelmann, who will once again put on his beloved black and yellow headbands.
The stacked team does not end with their national team players, though. Strong and large driver Lukas Dreyer will be tough to stop for even the most hardened defenses. German national team training squad member Giulia Pugnaghi, and young talent Haroun Omar are additional firing power as chasers. Should the need for defensive seeking arise, tenacious Angela Englisch will make sure opposing seekers will have few uninterrupted chances at the snitch runner. The team will undoubtedly regret the loss of aggressive beater Sebastian Elster, who is unable to make the tournament because he will be abroad, but Motte Müller’s impressive performances at Ligafinale as well as DQS are a good indication that Rheinos are well-equipped to possibly fill that gap.
Bonn are known for their fast and aggressive chaser play and their love of pressing, which makes them a tough opponent for every team but can also leave them open for teams able to get off a pass to a troll in a pressing situation when the Rheinos’ defense is sometimes known to leave gaps. How well they are able to handle these situations, as well as the high physicality and constant pressure they are not used to in German tournaments, will be the defining factor as to whether or not the current German league champion will be able to go to the upper bracket and make a run for the European title.
Three River Dragons Passau
Poor, poor Passau. Just after the high point of the club’s history, winning the German Championship in 2017, the Dragons lost several star players, most notable among those chaser/seeker double threat Sami Fekkak to Paris Titans and chaser demigod Tobias Mirwald to injury and ultimately other sports. They bounced back by making up for the lost talent in superb recruiting and coaching, leading them to fourth place at DQS, enough to re-qualify for EQC for the third time. However, they then saw things immediately going downhill again, having to cope with losing experienced players Chris Häuser and Annika Zangenfeind to injury and finally being drawn into one of the groups of death, making their goal of making a long run through the upper bracket a massive uphill battle.
With a full squad and enough training, the Dragons would be able to overcome even this difficult draw. They have proven their place among the European quidditch elite at Battle Royale II (controversially skipping the Ligafinale for that reason) where, despite losing every game, they kept three of their six opponents in SWIM range. The loss of Häuser notwithstanding, Passau do boast three impressive beaters with Heiner Elser, Borut Bezgovšek, and German national team coach Peter Bogner as well as one of Europe’s best keeper rotations with Ida Meyenberg and Svea Buttgereit. A further offensive threat that will be crucial for the Dragons’ offense is Markus Wagner, whose breakout performance at DQS gave Passau the firepower in their win against Darmstadt to move on to the top four. Additionally their new, strong, bulky chaser Chakib Boukhaddaja will give the team some much needed physicality on offense in situations where the beaters alone will not do the trick.
Another big strength of Passau is their ability to adapt. The deep tactical knowledge and great in-game coaching of Bogner are both reasons why he became Germany’s national team coach. It is still to be seen whether he will be able to accomplish much of those two as a playing coach, where his valuable focus on watching the game from outside will undoubtedly be sidetracked.
Having to play both reigning European champion Antwerp A as well as the Werewolves of London will be a difficult test for Southern Bavaria’s finest, especially when they are a tad weakened at key positions and have to rely on newer players to step up. Managing to make the upper bracket would be a massive feat, but if they do the sky would be the limit. The more likely route will probably be the lower bracket, though, where sheer frustration and force of will are guaranteed to carry them straight to the finals with every team unfortunate enough to be in their way pencilled in for a sure loss.
All in all, Germany’s rise through the ranks of European quidditch was bound to hit some roadblocks sooner or later, and a difficult draw for two of their three top contenders certainly qualifies as one. But if Germany wants to prove their place among the top quidditch nations of Europe, their representatives at EQC will have to show they have what it takes to hang out with the elite of the field. And as the old saying in Germany’s national sport of football goes: Wenn man Meister werden will, muss man jeden schlagen [If you want to become champion, you have to beat them all].
Editors Note: This article was updated 25/04/2018 to reflect an error in scores.