By Vid Rotvejn Pajič
Slovakia has been a constant in the world of quidditch for quite a while now. However, this year marks their first appearance on the biggest European quidditch stage. With this middle European country currently boasting two teams, Pfaffenhoffen will entertain the red and grey jerseys of the Pressburg Phantoms this year.
No official qualifier was played in Slovakia, as the Cassovia Crows ceded the European Quidditch Cup (EQC) opportunity to their compatriotes due to their lack of experience and players. The Phantoms thus competed only on the international scene. Since they hold the upper hand in the country, their national team is also composed primarily of Bratislavians. So far, Slovakia has not flourished on the international level, placing 17th in the 2016 Frankfurt World Cup and 12th in the 2017 Oslo European Games. They had more success with the Phantoms on the club level; they played in the Danube Cup II where they claimed victories over more established teams such as Three River Dragons Passau (90-90*), Aemona Argonauts (150*-130), and Vienna Vanguards (60*-50). They were even contending for the final, only to then succumb to Noordluxe (30-160*). Their greatest achievement was placing third in the 2017 Slavic Cup where they ended the tournament with four wins and one loss, the same as the winning Vangonauts team. They have displayed great resilience over these tournaments and have shown that the experience they have gathered over the years is starting to pay off.
Their main focus during the preparation phase of the EQC was on the newcomers. Sona Mayerova (chaser), Chiara Badini (chaser), Nina Mayerová (beater), Richard Matvej (beater), and Robert Lesniewski (keeper) worked hard to get into shape and to become tactically educated. With ample experience, older Phantoms, such as their captain, Martin Mudrik, were able to construct a good tactical game, rendering Pressburg a tough and unpredictable opponent.
Their roster is composed of 16 players, eight of whom have more than three years experience. They will be led by the veteran keepers and playmakers Miroslav Sova and Martin Mudrik, who will orchestrate the likes of Jana Krajčovičeva, who is excellent at positioning in offence and marking in defence, and Veronika Mičudova, a very physical chaser in charge of driving. In the bludger game, their most valuable asset is Hana Vrbovská, who excels in defence and is very tactically adept. She has an excellent vision of the game and is able to coordinate her beats with her chasers, as well as an ability to adapt quickly to the course of the game. Seeking will be on the shoulders of Richard Randik, whose strength and endurance often lead to a quick catch.
Randik at the European Quidditch Games 2017 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography
The Phantoms were drawn into Group G, with Southampton Quidditch Club, Lumos Compostela, and North Sea Nargles. As this will be their first EQC, their adversaries are a bit in the dark as to what to expect and may even underestimate them, so the Phantoms may turn this into an advantage. They are not expecting to win many games; they are coming to Pfaffenhoffen to enjoy the tournament and to gather valuable experience for the future. Nobody knows quite what Slovakians are capable of, and we should not be surprised if we see jaws dropping in Pfaffenhofen. They are proving time and time again that they never give up, and if not in the EQC, they will try in the Slavic Cup, the World Cup, the Danube Cup… until they claim their rightful place above the Tatras, the summits, that crown their country, as their national anthem says.