Not a single Quaffle thrown, not a single Snitch caught, but the 427th Quidditch World Cup is already mired in controversy. Magizoologists have congregated in the desert to contain the mayhem and Healers have attended more than 300 crowd members suffering from shock, broken bones and bites. The Argentinian Council of Magic is reeling from accusations that their decision to stage a mascot-themed opening ceremony was foolish and reckless.
In the weeks leading up to the opening, an impressive ornamental lake was created in the middle of the desert to accommodate the Fijian team’s Dukuwaqa (a shark/man shape-shifter). Organisers announced that mascots representing the other teams participating in the first week’s matches would take part in a choreographed display, advertised as ‘a magnificent exhibition of the diversity of the magizoological world’.
The ceremony started in gentle style, with river Genies from the Ivory Coast dancing in formation over the surface of the lake. It was only when the Fijian and Norwegian mascots were released that disaster struck.
President of the Argentinian Council of Magic, Valentina Vázquez, has issued the following statement:
‘While prepared for the arrival of the Fijian Dukuwaqa, we were surprised when the Norwegian delegation announced that they would also require lake-space for a gigantic lake serpent, the Selma. We had assumed that the Norwegians would be accompanied by their usual troop of performing trolls.’
‘We are not aware that any study has ever been undertaken into the compatibility of Dukuwaqas and Selmas, so the Council of Magic cannot accept liability for the unfortunate consequences of placing the two in close proximity.’
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Prophet, Chief Consulting Magizoologist Rolf Scamander disagreed:
‘The Dukuwaqa lives in a warm ocean, the Selma in an icy freshwater lake. The former is a shape-shifter that can transform from fish to man, the latter is a serpent that devours human flesh and fish. You would need the brains of a Billywig not to foresee an immediate bloodbath if both were crammed tightly together in tepid, brackish water.’
A bloodbath is precisely what occurred when the two monsters were released
A bloodbath is precisely what occurred when the two monsters were released into the magical lake through gigantic crystal chutes. Fijian and Norwegian handlers plunged into the seething waters to contain their respective mascots, but their efforts were greatly hampered by the Brazilian Curupiras (red-haired, forest-dwelling dwarves whose feet point backwards and who protect fellow creatures whom they feel are under threat from humans). Evidently believing that the handlers meant the Dukuwaqa and the Selma harm, the Curupiras attacked.
A bloodbath is precisely what occurred when the two monsters were released
With panic in the stadium and blood now flowing freely from both humans and creatures, it was perhaps understandable that the Nigerian Sasabonsams (vampiric, spindle-legged creatures) became crazed. As they wreaked havoc upon crowd and organisers, the rumour that the Haitian team had brought Inferi as their mascots was proven true. The crowd stampeded as Inferi moved freely through the stadium, attempting to capture and devour anyone who tripped.
Regulations on the size and nature of mascots have long been a source of debate at the highest levels of the ICWQC. A motion to restrict mascots ‘to herbivores, creatures smaller than a cow and nothing that breathes fire’ was defeated by an overwhelming majority in 1995. Quidditch supporters worldwide have been opposed to any meddling with what they see as a traditional, colourful part of the World Cup.
However, many believe that competition among teams to bring the most intimidating mascot has got out of hand. Norwegian manager Arnulf Moe defended his decision to bring the Selma, which he said represented the ‘steely determination and ferocity of the Norwegian players’, and claimed that the Dukuwaqa bit first.
A record crowd has been transported by 10,000 Portkeys to the heart of the Patagonian desert for the opening weekend of the tournament, and while the Argentinian Council has been widely praised for the flawless transportation arrangements, the record number of injuries sustained before the first whistle has been blown is sure to be an embarrassment to the organisers.
The first game of the tournament will take place tomorrow: Norway versus Ivory Coast.
Joint favourites in this year’s tournament, Norway today made short work of Ivory Coast, who were not playing at their often impressive best.
The last time these sides met, the game lasted for five days. Today, the final whistle was blown in a little over two hours.
Norway’s resolve and discipline was impressive given the level of hostility they faced from the crowd, many of whom were still bandaged following the Norwegian mascot’s behaviour of yesterday. The match was twice halted whilst security wizards entered the stands to discover the source of jinxes sent at celebrated Norwegian Chaser Lars Lundekvam.
Ivoirian Chaser Elodie Dembélé, aged only 18, scored seven of Ivory Coast’s ten goals. Norwegian Seeker Sigrid Kristoffersen out-raced her counterpart Sylvian Boigny to take the Snitch in the 128th minute.
Pity Fijian Seeker Joseph Snuka as he tries to justify his side’s bruising 400 – 160 defeat at the hands of tournament favourites Nigeria.
In the early stages of the game Fijian Beaters Quintia Qarase and Narinder Singh lacked the ferocity of their Nigerian counterparts Aliko Okoye and Mercy Ojukwu. The Bludgers did serious damage to the Fijian Chasers, who managed only a single goal during the first hour, compared with Nigeria’s forty.
To the bewilderment of commentators, the fury of Fijian supporters and the jeers of the Nigerians, Seeker Snuka chose to capture the Snitch in the 141st minute, when his team was trailing 400-10. While there is precedent for a Seeker choosing to catch the Snitch if so doing will minimise the margin by which their team are about to lose (the most famous recent occasion being Viktor Krum’s Snitch capture in the 1994 final), Snuka’s counterpart Samuel Equiano was some distance away when he chose to snatch the Snitch from the air. Snuka has previously been dubbed an egoist by teammates and today’s actions will do little to change his reputation.
Fijian manager and trainer Hector Bolobolo’s only comment after the match was ‘I’m going to kill him.’
Nigeria will face the winner of the Japan versus Poland match.
Snuka has previously been dubbed an egoist by teammates
One of the oldest rules in Quidditch was violated in Haiti’s match against Brazil, resulting in the first disqualification of the tournament.
Haitian Keeper Lenelle Paraison (one of only three female Keepers flying this tournament) was forced to justify her selection again and again during the early hours of the game as Brazilian Chasers Diaz, Alonso and Flores made as many as thirty assaults on the hoops. That they scored only ten goals is testimony to Paraison’s agility and courage. Her nose was twice broken during the first sixty minutes, once by a ferocious Bludger mis-hit by her own teammate, Beater Jean-Baptiste Bloncourt.
At the other end of the pitch, star Haitian Chaser Clairvius Hyppolite was responsible for eight of his side’s nine goals. In spite of Brazil’s narrow lead in the fourth hour, many felt that the Haitian side was outplaying the Brazilians when Bloncourt made his second devastating mis-hit. The Haitian Seeker Sylvian Jolicoeur was within inches of capturing the Snitch when he was hit by another of Bloncourt’s poorly aimed Bludgers and knocked out cold. The Snitch then flew up Bloncourt’s sleeve, a rare but not unknown accident. ‘Only the Seeker may capture the Snitch and any other player catching it will forfeit the game’ is a tenet drummed into every schoolboy or girl who plays Quidditch, but Bloncourt appeared to lose his head at this point, wrestling the Snitch out of his undergarments and holding it up triumphantly as though this would indemnify him for the blunders he had made. Haiti was instantly disqualified.
Haitian Seeker Jolicoeur is making a good recovery. Beater Bloncourt is currently in hiding at an undisclosed location.
Brazil will face the winner of the Wales versus Germany match.
Yet more controversy in Patagonia: the outcome of the USA versus Jamaica clash is under investigation due to the sudden collapse of Kquewanda Bailey, the Jamaican Keeper, who toppled from her broom shortly before US Chaser Quentin Kowalski scored their ninth goal.
Seconds after the referee successfully halted Bailey’s groundwards plummet with a well timed ‘arresto momentum!’ US Seeker Darius Smackhammer caught the Snitch ahead of Jamaican counterpart Shanice Higgins, resulting in a narrow victory for the United States.
The timing of Kquewanda’s sudden unconsciousness was so convenient that authorities are examining the possibility of crowd interference. Omnioculars from all over the stadium are being scrutinised for recorded evidence. The ICWQC has intimated that they will not be in a position to rule on the validity of the result until tomorrow.
An amendment to the rules of Quidditch in 1849 stipulates that if a member of the crowd casts any jinx or spell on a player, their team will automatically forfeit the match, whether or not the team ordered or approved of the magic performed.
Following an inquiry into the sudden (and, many felt, suspicious) collapse of Jamaican Keeper Kquewanda Bailey at a crucial point in yesterday’s match against the USA, Kquewanda is now confirmed to be suffering from an infected Sasabonsam (vampiric Nigerian mascot) bite, sustained during the opening ceremony. No crowd interference has been uncovered and therefore the USA will pass into the quarter-finals, where they will play the victor of the Chad versus Liechtenstein match.
No crowd interference has been uncovered
The longest match of the tournament so far is in its eleventh hour and players have broken for a short sleep. The two teams seem evenly matched, and every goal has been hard won against Beaters who on both sides are showing superb precision and power. The Snitch has been within catching range on three occasions but on each, well-hit Bludgers have prevented a resolution. Man of the match so far is undoubtedly Liechtenstein Chaser Willi Wenzel, who took two Bludgers to the head in the early stages of the game and still managed to score the third goal of the match from a distance of sixty yards.
As the second day of this match limped to a close, players were beginning to show signs of severe fatigue. The Snitch was literally hovering above Chadian Seeker Jacques Miskine’s left eyebrow for five minutes before he noticed it, and even then his reactions were so slow it managed to make an escape. Liechtenstein Chaser Otmar Frick is believed to have literally fallen asleep on his broom shortly before play was stopped for the evening. Still too close to call, this match is turning into a true epic of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup.
The snitch was literally hovering above Chadian Seeker Jacques Miskine's left eyebrow
The end, when it finally came, was sudden and brutal. In the third day of the gruelling match, and with Chad just ahead on goals, exhausted Liechtenstein Seeker Bruno Bruunhart managed to grab the Snitch inches from the outstretched hand of Jacques Miskine. Both teams wept and embraced as they finally reached solid ground. All are now receiving medical treatment.
Liechtenstein will now face the USA in the quarter-finals.
New Zealand manager Charlie Baverstock proclaimed himself ‘madder than a bloke who’s been locked in a box of Fwoopers’ after Dennis Moon was sent off in the 106th minute. This loss was undoubtedly a crucial factor in New Zealand’s 410 - 170 loss to a Bulgarian side that many feel was lucky to qualify at all.
The mid-air collision of Chasers Moon and Bogomil Levski appeared accidental from many parts of the stadium. However, referee Georgios Xenakis was better positioned and judged that Moon had deliberately caused the crash. Whether or not Xenakis was influenced by rumours that Moon and Levski have a long-standing feud, his decision undoubtedly turned the match in Bulgaria’s favour.
Twice runners-up in the last fifty years, the current Bulgarian side showed flashes of inspiration as they racked up an impressive score against the six-strong Kiwis. Two players – Levski and Vulchanov – had fathers on the 1994 side that introduced an eighteen-year-old Viktor Krum to the world. One of the headline stories of the current World Cup is, of course, Krum’s re-emergence from retirement. At thirty-eight he is the oldest player in the competition, and has faced stiff criticism for taking the place of a younger player on what some have called ‘sentimental’ grounds. However, Krum’s capture of the Snitch ahead of twenty-one-year-old Ngapo Ponika unquestionably showed traces of his old brilliance, and delighted the Bulgarian supporters.
Bulgaria will play joint favourites Norway in the quarter-finals.
A tight, well-fought game of Quidditch resulted in a well-deserved win for Japan, who emerged the victors with 350 points to Poland’s 140. The final score does not reflect Poland’s spirited and dynamic play, but the inexperience of this young side showed as they were put under considerable pressure by veteran Japanese Beaters Hongo and Shingo (recently voted second only to legendary 1994 Bulgarians Volkov and Vulchanov as all-time best Beater duo). Polish Seeker Wladyslaw Wolfke is one to watch: a daring and graceful flier, he was unlucky to miss the Snitch early in the game, and was only narrowly beaten to it in the 59th minute by the gifted Noriko Sato.
Japan will play joint favourites Nigeria in the quarter-finals.
Germany versus Wales today gave a horrible reminder of the perils of Seekership. The Wronski Feint is a dangerous move whereby the Seeker pretends to have spotted the Snitch and performs a vertical dive, attempting to lure his or her counterpart into imitating them, pulling out at the last moment and leaving their opponent to crash. German Seeker Thorsten Pfeffer today attempted the life-threatening Feint with awful consequences, failing to pull out in time and colliding with the ground at what onlookers estimated to be sixty miles an hour. Healers flooded the pitch and Skele-Gro was administered at the scene. Thankfully, Pfeffer survived the match and manager Franziska Faust later told the assembled reporters that he is likely to make a complete recovery, although he has broken most of the bones in his body and currently believes himself to be a budgerigar called Klaus.
Welsh Seeker Eurig Cadwallader caught the Snitch eleven minutes after Pfeffer was stretchered off the field, but neither players nor crowd were in a celebratory mood, and only once she had heard that Pfeffer would survive did manager Gwenog Jones pronounce herself to be ‘bloody delighted’. Her team will face Brazil in the quarter-finals.
The first quarter-final of the tournament has proved to be the most contentious game so far this tournament, one which began in bad blood and ended in a brawl that saw Welsh manager Gwenog Jones dragged from the pitch by her own Beaters.
The Brazil-Wales grudge began in the early days of the tournament when Brazilian manager José Barboza allegedly called the Welsh Chasers ‘talentless hags’ over a few drinks with loose-lipped veteran journalist Rita Skeeter. His insistence that he had been joking did nothing to quell the ire of Welsh manager Gwenog Jones, who threatened to ‘curse the face off’ him. In spite of the ICWQC’s ban on ‘managerial trash talk’ – a ban that many believe to have been created with Gwenog in mind – Jones has missed no opportunity to belittle and insult the Brazilians ever since learning that her team would face them in the quarter-finals. She was even prevented from entering the stadium in an ‘IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HAITI’ T-shirt (Brazil passed into the quarter-finals when opponents Haiti were disqualified), so missed the opening ten minutes of the match, which were notable for the ferocity of play and three brutal fouls.
Brazilian Chasers Diaz, Alonso and Flores put in a solid performance and should be commended for keeping their heads when all about them were losing theirs – in the case of Keeper Raul Almeida, almost literally. The viciousness of the Bludger sent his way by Welsh Beater Iefan Rice (the Quaffle was at the other end of the pitch at the time) earned Brazil a penalty and arguably should have seen Rice sent off.
Nevertheless, Wales’s play was not confined to fouls. Few will disagree that Welsh Chaser Jackie Jernigan scored one of the tournament’s most stunning goals from a distance of fifty yards, while it is estimated that Beater Darren Floyd single-handedly prevented at least seventeen Brazilian goals.
Wales’s chances were finally dashed by a stunning Snitch capture by Brazilian Seeker Tony Silva, who performed a spectacular dive in the 131st minute of the match to seize victory from under his counterpart Eurig Cadwallader’s nose.
Gwenog Jones is in custody this evening, having attempted to make good her promise to curse off Barboza’s face in full view of a packed stadium. Healers report that Barboza’s skin has almost regrown, and he is said to be in excellent spirits. Brazil will face the winner of the USA versus Liechtenstein match in the semi-finals.
In one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, the Bulgarian side, who many considered lucky to have qualified, has ousted one of the joint favourites. Norway now fly home asking themselves how things could have gone so wrong, so quickly.
Bulgaria, whose first match was made considerably easier for them when New Zealand’s team was reduced to six after a sending-off, showed good form straight off the whistle. Nikola Vassileva was responsible for both of Bulgaria’s early goals, but Norway’s Lars Lundekvam soon equalised.
The end came almost without warning. Viktor Krum’s sudden descent looked like simple Bludger-avoidance and Norwegian Seeker Sigrid Kristoffersen not only neglected to mark him, but was actually looking the other way when Krum raised his right hand to show that he had secured a Bulgarian victory in the 42nd minute. Few will fail to sympathise with Kristoffersen, who flew directly to the ground and banged her head on it until dragged to her feet by Keeper Karl Wang. Krum, who has been written off by many journalists as too old and slow to compete at 38 years old, was borne from the pitch in triumph by fans.
Heartbroken Norwegian coach Oddvar Spillum had no comment for reporters, but broken sobs. There can be no doubt that this has been a deeply unlucky tournament for the usually outstanding Norwegians. However irrational it may seem, many fans blame the Selma, a Norwegian lake monster that the team brought as a mascot and which caused a bloodbath at the opening ceremony. The Selma is tonight hiding in a secret location.
If Muggles haven’t noticed the celebrations currently piercing the Patagonian night, we must assume that in addition to being non-magical they are also remarkably stupid. The USA is through to the semi-finals of the Quidditch World Cup and as I write this report, Argentinian officials are storming through both the supporters’ encampment and the players’ quarters, attempting to quell the kind of jubilation more commonly associated with the final.
The US has historically put up a poor show in international Quidditch, being the only country to have embraced the (frankly odd) game of Quodpot. Today marks the US’s maturation into a true force of the wizarding world’s most popular sport.
Though some may suggest that Liechtenstein entered the match at a disadvantage, having competed in a three-day epic against Chad, the team appeared fully recovered as they entered the stadium. Early play was fast and competitive with Quaffle possession almost equal. US Chaser Quentin Kowalski drew plaudits from all commentators for his deft weaving and rolling, although Liechtensteiner heart-throb Otmar Frick (‘The Rugged Man of Ruggell’) was the game’s top scorer with 16 goals.
a daring Snitch capture that involved a breakneck dash through the cross fire of both Bludgers
Top plaudits must go to American Seeker Darius Smackhammer, who secured the US’s place in an historic semi-final in the 148th minute. His was a daring Snitch capture that involved a breakneck dash through the cross fire of both Bludgers and risked collision with hefty Liechtenstein Chaser Willi Wenzel to tweak the Snitch hovering near Wenzel’s left ankle.
Red, white and blue sparks are currently so thick in the air that it is both difficult to breathe or see. A harried official high in the ICWQC told the Daily Prophet shortly after the match: ‘if this is what they do when they get into the semis, imagine what we’re facing if they reach the final. I’m thinking security trolls.’
Today marks the US's maturation into a true force of the wizarding world's most popular sport.
High-spirited American fans celebrating their team’s historic triumph in the quarter-finals have kidnapped Hans, the Liechtenstein mascot. Hans, a large and gloomy Augurey (a rain-predicting, vulture-like bird), has gained a devoted fan following during the tournament. Liechtenstein coach and manager Ferdinand Jägendorf has issued the following statement: ‘Das finden wir nicht lustig’ (‘we don’t find that funny’).
The Liechtenstein mascot is tonight back in his customised pen, but not before negotiations for his return reached the highest levels. Highly placed sources can confirm that the Liechtenstein Minister for Magic and the President of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) exchanged terse owls concerning the whereabouts of Hans, who was kidnapped by enthusiastic American fans following their victory over Liechtenstein in the quarter-finals.
‘We are delighted to report that this prank has ended in a friendly and cooperative fashion,’ announced President Samuel G. Quahog, ‘and trust that Hans is none the worse for his little adventure.’
‘We are very pleased that the Americans have returned our beloved mascot,’ said Minister Otto Obermeier. ‘Magizoologists are currently keeping Hans under close observation for ill effects. If any are discovered we will of course lobby the ICWQC for the USA’s immediate disqualification from the World Cup.’
A harried ICWQC official responded: ‘Look, we’ve had to perform mass Memory Charms on about 2000 Muggles living on the edge of the desert after the American celebrations last night, and don’t get me started on the planes. I’m not telling the Americans they’re going home. Not doing it. Just feed the bird some fairies and leave me alone.’
A World Cup full of surprises yielded yet another this afternoon as the second of the tournament’s favourites crashed out of the competition, yielding to the might of a Japanese side that put in a near flawless performance.
This match ought to be remembered as the Battle of the Beaters, because these two outstanding Quidditch nations put on a veritable master class of Bludger work. The precision and creativity of shots hit by Okoye and Ojukwu on the one hand, and Shingo and Hongo on the other, framed the action, demonstrating that Beaters – so often caricatured as thugs with bats – can be artists, too.
The turning point of the game was undoubtedly the staggeringly powerful shot hit by Hongo, which smashed the tail off Nigerian Seeker Equiano’s broom. As Equiano span out of control, Noriko Sato soared through the middle of the action to seize the Snitch from the midst of distracted Nigerian players intent on saving their teammate. Japan pass into the semi-finals where they will meet Bulgaria.
The Nigerians have been riding the controversial Thunderbolt VII, a competitor to the Firebolt series, which many experts feel has sacrificed safety for speed. Professional brooms ought to be able to withstand all Bludger blows and an inquiry is already underway. Rumours that a posse of Nigerian warlocks is currently heading for the Thunderbolt Headquarters in Manchester, England, have not been confirmed.
Professional brooms ought to be able to withstand all Bludger blows
The shock elimination of both favourites, Norway and Nigeria, has given the bookies plenty to smile about. Now Ludo Bagman, former England Beater and enthusiastic gambler, rates the chances of the semi-finalists still in with a chance of lifting the coveted trophy.
Brazil has won the Quidditch World Cup five times, but the nineties and early noughties were generally considered wilderness years for this once great side. Manager José Barboza has reinvigorated the national game, bringing in younger players from every corner of the country. With an average age of only 22, this is the least experienced side remaining in the tournament.
* Only one capture, due to Haiti’s illegal capture in the first round.
Their relative inexperience has not hampered the high goal scoring Brazilians thus far, but these young players may crumble as pressure mounts. They have plenty of talent, but might it be more realistic to expect a win in four years’ time?
Nobody expected the USA’s explosion into the final stages of the Quidditch World Cup. While they may have been lucky in the first round, where the collapse of Jamaica’s Seeker allowed them to sneak a win, they showed their mettle in beating the well-favoured Liechtenstein team in the quarter-finals. Could this be the USA’s moment?
While impressed by the Americans’ form against Liechtenstein, seasoned Quidditch-watchers remain unconvinced as to whether they have what it takes to lift the Cup. Their primary weakness is in defence. Keeper Susan Blancheflower let 23 Jamaican goals past her in the first round, and Beaters Pringle and Picquery will need to find better form if they are to beat the talented young Brazilian Beaters, Santos and Clodoaldo, in the next round.
Japan were widely expected to do well in this tournament, but the flair and attack they showed in dispatching joint-favourites Nigeria impressed all who witnessed it. Riding racing brooms developed in their home country and unveiled for the first time during the tournament, Japan boasts talented players in almost every position, but it is in defence that they are virtually untouchable. Hongo and Shingo replica Quidditch robes are now the fastest-selling pieces of merchandise at the tournament.
Japan must now be tournament favourites, dispatching opponents with a combination of ruthless efficiency and exquisite artistry.
Nobody expected Bulgaria to proceed past the knockout round. While they have twice reached the final in the last twenty years, Bulgaria entered this tournament as outsiders, their team having narrowly scraped into the final sixteen. The selection of 38-year-old Viktor Krum was widely seen as made out of sentiment rather than on merit. Luck may have played a part in Bulgaria’s first round win against New Zealand, but when Krum’s early capture of the Snitch sent joint favourites Norway home from the tournament, many commentators were forced to eat their scathing words.
Bulgaria is attracting a lot of international support; partly for their underdog status and partly for the fondness Quidditch fans everywhere feel for a talented man who never achieved his life’s ambition. But do Krum and his teammates really have what it takes to beat Japan in the semis? The answer, I fear, is probably not.
For the second time in this tournament, it looks like a game will run through the night – and possibly beyond.
If one word summarises this semi–final so far, it is: nerves. Careless errors have littered the match, undoubtedly because a place in the final means so much to both sides. The USA has already climbed higher in the tournament than they have ever managed before, and 2014 will mark their emergence as a major force in the sport. Meanwhile Brazil, a once-great side who have lost their way in recent years, are fighting for their first final since 1982. The stakes are high and it is perhaps not to be wondered at that players are showing signs of pressure.
We have seen more Quaffle drops than in any match so far, with US Chaser Mercy Wardwell so frustrated by her fifth fumble that she beat her head repeatedly against her broom handle until restrained by Seeker Darius Smackhammer. Yet Wardwell was not alone: even Fernando Diaz and Alejandra Alonso, two of Brazil’s finest, allowed the Quaffle to slip through their fingers twice apiece.
Several mis-hit Bludgers have injured the Beaters’ own teammates. When Lucas Picquery sent the Bludger into the face of Keeper Susan Blancheflower in the fourth hour of the game, she risked further injury by attempting to jump onto Picquery’s broom to remonstrate with him. Cautioned by the referee, Blancheflower was the next to make an elementary error when she came too far out of the scoring circle, allowing Alonso to slip past and sneak a goal that took Brazil ten points ahead, although not for long. Quentin Kowalski scored twice as night fell, giving the US a narrow lead, but this is still anyone’s game as darkness thickens.
As the sun rose in Patagonia, two tired but determined teams seemed more focused and disciplined after a night of gruelling play. Here we saw the reason that both teams reached the semi-finals. Dynamic Quaffle play between two exciting Chaser trios could still have swung the match either way, but Brazilian Keeper Raul Almeida made all the difference, repeatedly repelling American assaults on the goal hoops.
Darius Smackhammer spotted the Snitch in the twentieth hour of the game, but a pair of precision hit Bludgers courtesy of Brazilian Beaters Santos and Clodoaldo drove him off course. The crowd rose as one as Smackhammer and Brazilian Seeker Silva raced each other, both sliding to the very handles of their brooms. As the pair spiralled towards the ground it was initially hard to see who had triumphed – Silva’s subsequent breakneck dash towards the scoreboard could have been suicidal or triumphant – but it was swiftly apparent that Brazil had won.
An epic semi-final has ended in thrilling style. Brazil will face either Japan or Bulgaria in the final, while the USA will play the loser to decide third place.
One minute before walking out onto the pitch for the second of this year’s semi-finals, Bulgarian Beater Boris Vulchanov told me: ‘We’ve been underdogs all through this tournament. We have nothing to lose and everything to win. We’ll leave everything out there.’
And nobody could deny that they did. If there is any consolation for the Japanese, who have been outstanding throughout this tournament and who have given the wizarding world two new icons in Beaters Shingo and Hongo, it is that they participated in a semi-final that will long live in memory; one of the highest scoring of recent years and a display of utterly thrilling Quidditch.
As expected, Shingo and Hongo dominated the early part of the game. Play was stopped twice for Healers to attend to the Bulgarian team, six of whom were bleeding from the head within an hour of Quaffle-off.
Then came a triple display of sportsmanship that nobody who witnessed it will soon forget. With Bludgers still flying like cannonballs, Vulchanov deliberately interposed his body to protect teammate and Seeker Krum, who was in hot pursuit of the Snitch. Vulchanov was knocked out cold and fell from his broom, only to be caught and saved by Japanese Seeker Noriko Sato. Seeing that Sato was unable to pursue the Snitch, Krum pulled up and did not capitalise on his momentary advantage. Krum, Sato and Vulchanov (once revived) were given a standing ovation by all spectators as play resumed.
While the Japanese defence has rightly drawn plaudits from all corners of the Quidditch world, the work of Chasers Ryuichi Yamaguchi, Kimiko Kurosawa and Yoshi Wakahisa should not be overlooked. By the eighth hour of the game the Japanese were two hundred and fifty points ahead. In spite of trailing badly, the Bulgarians took everything Shingo and Hongo were throwing at them. The Bulgarians’ play was not pretty, but their guts could not be doubted.
The Snitch appeared for the second time and Krum raced Sato, driving her off but refusing to catch it. It was a mark of faith in his team and a sharp contrast to the infamous catch of the ’94 final, where he had brought the game to an end to spare his side further humiliation at the hands of the Irish.
This was the true turning point of the match. The Bulgarians now chipped slowly away, finally drawing level by sheer persistence and a much-improved defensive performance. Then, in the tenth hour, the extraordinary reversal: Krum performed a magnificent piece of diversionary flying that led Sato to believe he was avoiding Hongo’s sight-line, and before the crowd or his fellow players realised what was happening, Krum caught the Snitch. Such was the crowd’s astonishment that there was a ten second silence throughout the stadium before the Bulgarian supporters even dared cheer. Their celebrations continue as I write, but only the most hard-hearted could fail to sympathise with the Japanese, who now face the USA in the playoff for third place.
There are celebrities – and then there are celebrities. We’ve seen many a famous face from the wizarding world grace the stands here in the Patagonian Desert – Ministers and Presidents, Celestina Warbeck, controversial American wizarding band The Bent-Winged Snitches – all have caused flurries of excitement, with crowd members scrambling for autographs and even casting Bridging Charms to reach the VIP boxes over the heads of the crowd.
But when word swept the campsite and stadium that a certain gang of infamous wizards (no longer the fresh-faced teenagers they were in their heyday, but nevertheless recognisable) had arrived for the final, excitement was beyond anything yet seen. As the crowd stampeded, tents were flattened and small children mown down. Fans from all corners of the globe stormed towards the area where members of Dumbledore’s Army were rumoured to have been sighted, desperate above all else for a glimpse of the man they still call the Chosen One.
The Potter family and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army have been given accommodation in the VIP section of the campsite, which is protected by heavy charms and patrolled by Security Warlocks. Their presence has ensured large crowds along the cordoned area, all hoping for a glimpse of their heroes. At 3pm today they got their wish when, to the accompaniment of loud screams, Potter took his young sons James and Albus to visit the players’ compound, where he introduced them to Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum.
About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: ‘We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.’ So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem?
Or does his injury have a more humble origin, one that Potter is desperate to hide? Has his wife perhaps cursed him? Are cracks beginning to show in a union that the Potters are determined to promote as happy? Should we read anything into the fact that his wife Ginevra has been perfectly happy to leave her husband and children behind in London whilst reporting on this tournament? The jury is out on whether she really had the talent or experience to be sent to the Quidditch World Cup (jury’s back in – no!!!) but let’s face it, when your last name is Potter, doors open, international sporting bodies bow and scrape, and Daily Prophet editors hand you plum assignments.
As their devoted fans and followers will remember, Potter and Krum competed against each other in the controversial Triwizard Tournament, but apparently there are no hard feelings, as they embraced upon meeting. (What really happened in that maze? Speculation is unlikely to be quelled by the warmth of their greeting.) After half an hour’s chat, Potter and his sons returned to the campsite where they socialised with the rest of Dumbledore’s Army until the small hours.
In the next tent are Potter’s two closest associates, the ones who know everything about him and yet have always refused to talk to the press. Are they afraid of him, or is it their own secrets they are afraid will leak out, tarnishing the myth of He Who Could Not Be Named’s defeat? Now married, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger were with Potter almost every step of the way. Like the rest of Dumbledore’s Army, they fought in the Battle of Hogwarts and no doubt deserve the plaudits and awards for bravery heaped upon them by a grateful wizarding world.
In the immediate aftermath of the battle Weasley, whose famous ginger hair appears to be thinning slightly, entered into employment with the Ministry of Magic alongside Potter, but left only two years later to co-manage the highly successful wizarding joke emporium Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Was he, as he stated at the time, ‘delighted to assist my brother George with a business I’ve always loved’? Or had he had his fill of standing in Potter’s shadow? Was the work of the Auror Department too much for a man who has admitted that the destruction of He Who Could Not Be Named’s Horcruxes ‘took its toll’ on him?
He shows no obvious signs of mental illness from a distance, but the public is not allowed close enough to make a proper assessment. Is this suspicious?
Was he, as he stated at the time, 'delighted to assist my brother George with a business I've always loved'?
Hermione Granger, of course, was always the femme fatale of the group. Press reports of the time revealed that as a teenager she toyed with the young Potter’s affections before being seduced away by the muscular Viktor Krum, finally settling for Potter’s faithful sidekick. After a meteoric rise to Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, she is now tipped to go even higher within the Ministry, and is also mother to son, Hugo, and daughter, Rose. Does Hermione Granger prove that a witch really can have it all? (No – look at her hair).
Then there are those members of Dumbledore’s Army who receive slightly less publicity than Potter, Weasley and Granger. (Are they resentful? Almost certainly.) Neville Longbottom, now a popular Herbology teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is here in Patagonia with his wife Hannah. Until recently the pair lived above the Leaky Cauldron in London, but rumour has it that Hannah has not only retrained as a Healer, but is applying for the job of Matron at Hogwarts. Idle gossip suggests that she and her husband both enjoy a little more Ogden’s Old Firewhisky than most of us would expect from custodians of our children, but no doubt we all wish her the best of luck with her application.
Last of the ringleaders of Dumbledore’s Army is, of course, Luna Lovegood (now married to Rolf Scamander, swarthy grandson of celebrated Magizoologist Newt). Still delightfully eccentric, Luna has been sweeping around the VIP section in robes composed of the flags of all sixteen qualifying countries. Her twin sons are ‘at home with grandpa’. Is this a euphemism for ‘too disturbed to be seen in public’? Surely only the unkindest would suggest so.
Sundry other members of the Army are here, but it is on these six that most interest is focused. Wherever there is a red head one may make an educated guess that it belongs to a Weasley, but it is difficult to tell whether it is George (wealthy co-manager of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes), Charlie (dragon wrangler, still unmarried – why?) or Percy (Head of the Department of Magical Transportation – it’s his fault if the Floo Network’s too busy!). The only one who is easy to recognise is Bill who, poor man, is grievously scarred from an encounter with a werewolf and yet somehow (Enchantment? Love potion? Blackmail? Kidnap?) married the undeniably beautiful (though doubtless empty-headed) Fleur Delacour.
Word is that we shall see these and other members of Dumbledore’s Army in the VIP boxes at the final, adding to the glitz and razzmatazz of a gala occasion. Let us hope that the behaviour of two of their younger hangers-on does not embarrass them, heaping shame on those who have previously brought honour to the name of wizard.
One always hesitates to invade the privacy of young people, but the fact is that anyone closely connected with Harry Potter reaps the benefits and must pay the penalty of public interest. No doubt Potter will be distressed to know that his sixteen-year-old godson Teddy Lupin – a lanky half-werewolf with bright blue hair – has been behaving in a way unbefitting of wizarding royalty since arriving on the VIP campsite. It might be asking too much that the always-busy Potter keep a tighter rein on this wild boy, who was entrusted to his care by his dying parents, but one shudders to think what will become of Master Lupin without urgent intervention. Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Bill Weasley might like to know that their beautiful, blonde daughter Victoire seems to be attracted to any dark corner where Master Lupin happens to be lurking. The good news is both of them seem to have invented a method of breathing through their ears. I can think of no other reason how they have survived such prolonged periods of what, in my young day, was called ‘snogging.’
But let us not be severe. Harry Potter and his cohorts never claimed to be perfect! And for those who want to know exactly how imperfect they are, my new biography: Dumbledore’s Army: The Dark Side of the Demob will be available from Flourish and Blotts on July 31st.
It was brief, it was bloody and few will disagree that it was brutal.
Japan, who many thought would go all the way in this tournament, and the USA, for whom 2014 has been a breakthrough year, have both had remarkable World Cups. All fourteen players in this third place play-off can hold their heads high tonight, though for some – notably American Chaser Arsenia Gonzales, who took two Bludgers to the face in the 34th minute – it will be extremely painful.
The USA did well to score twelve times against Keeper Todoroki, an undersung hero of the Japanese side who was on superb form, while Beaters Hongo and Shingo were simply unstoppable. At the other end of the pitch, Chasers Yamaguchi, Kurosawa and Wakahisa put eighteen goals past Keeper Susan Blancheflower before Japanese Seeker Noriko Sato put in one of the most spectacular dives of the tournament. Zooming through flying Bludgers and a tangle of Chasers she successfully seized the Snitch from under the heel of American Mercy Wardwell, leaving Darius Smackhammer in a broom-lock with Lucas Picquery.
Once on the ground, the teams embraced in a heart-warming show of sportsmanship. Word has since reached us that the Japanese have presented the American team – whose supporters famously kidnapped Hans the Augurey, the Liechtenstein mascot – with a Hoo-hoo chick (the Hoo-hoo is a Japanese firebird).