|Puffskein members run around the SNU Main Stadium to practice Quiddich every Thursday. Photo by Jeremy Desjardins.
The wizarding world of Harry Potter is not limited to the world of ink and paper, but comes to life on the fields of Seoul National University (SNU) every Thursday night. Quidditch, a wizarding team sport played on broomsticks in the Harry Potter series, is brought to life by university students. As the first national Quidditch team, Seoul Puffskein, the SNU team is actively competing in and out of Korea.
“When one of our founding members went to Norway as an exchange student in 2005, he thought Quidditch was an interesting sport,” said Kim Soo-hyuk, the captain of Puffskein. “Retruning to SNU, he established the Puffskein team in 2015.”
Although Quidditch is fairly new to Korea, the sport has countless charms and interesting features. In most sports, people are divided into women’s and men’s teams, but in Quidditch people compete in the same team regardless of their gender.
“Some might think it’s less intense because females compete alongside male players, but it’s not,” Kim said. “I’ve seen female players that are just as good as any male counterpart; one of our female players even ranked fourth as the Quidditch Asian Cup MVP. I think it creates awareness that people shouldn’t be stereotyped based on their gender.”
Another interesting characteristic of Quidditch is its unique positions. A team made of one Seeker, three Chasers, two Beaters, and one Keeper actively runs around the field with a stick between their thighs, thrusting quaffles, a ball used by Chasers for scoring through goalposts, and throwing bludgers, a ball used by Beaters to distract and block opponents. However, the snitch is not a magical ball that flies in mid-air as described in the series, but a player with a ball tied to their’s waist. Because catching the snitch is crucial in determining the winner, to ensure neutrality, a referee takes the position.
“Playing the role of the snitch is very hard, and the player needs to be very athletic,” Kim said. “Having to run from both team seekers isn’t easy. I played the snitch once, and it was one of my most exhausting practices.”
Even though unique and interesting features make Quidditch a fun sport, compared to countries in Europe and North America, Korea is less familiar with Quidditch. Due to its newness, the members had to lay the stepping stones in creating equipment, figuring out training methods, and systemizing the team.
“We hand-made all the necessary equipment,” Kim said. “Since there is no store that carries Quidditch supplies, we made goalposts using hula hoops and used other sports supplies and modified them to fit Quidditch.”
Also, being the first Quidditch team in Korea, developing training techniques is always a hard challenge.
“We mostly practice amongst ourselves,” Kim said. “Sometimes this gets us trapped in our own tactics and limits the team’s development, because we don’t have a lot of chances to see how others play. When we go abroad to compete in the Quidditch World Cup and Quidditch Asian Cup, we’re sometimes taken aback when encountering new playing styles.”
Despite such obstacles, hard practice and passion has brought about good results to Puffskein. Competing in the 2017 Qudditch Asian Cup in Vietnam, the team triumphantly ranked second place.
“Our last match against Malaysia, a very skillful team, was a dramatic victory,” Kim said. “Even though I knew we couldn’t rank first place, I encouraged the players to relax, enjoy the competition and bring out all the creative techniques that came to their minds. Playing in a more relaxed atmosphere seemed to draw hidden talents out of each and every player.”
Participating in various competitions overseas, these events opened new opportunities for the team.
“Meeting teams abroad, we try to create a strong network,” Kim said. “Keeping in touch with them through Facebook, we arrange friendly matches or training sessions when teams travel to Korea. By interacting with them, we can learn their techniques and teach them new strategies as well.”
In their process of learning and growing, Puffskein also actively tries to popularize Quidditch in Korea. With their accumulated know-how, Puffskein is in the process of helping Chungju National University of Education to create another Korean team. Apart from creating more teams, Kim wishes to change the public’s perception of Quidditch.
“A lot of people assume Quidditch is a slack-off sport that only anime-lovers play,” Kim said. “To be honest, I also thought of it lightly before my first game, but it’s actually a very intense sport that follows strict rules. However, because creative tactics are equally significant to agility, people who don’t have experience in playing professional sports can also easily join. I can go on and on about the various advantages of Quidditch.”
When asked about his ultimate goal as the team captain, Kim expressed hopes in achieving good results in matches abroad.
“Our goal is for Puffskein to be number one in Asia,” Kim remarked. “We also want to gain as many wins as possible during the Quidditch World Cup. Unfortunately, we couldn’t host the 2017 Asian Cup because Korea didn’t get the top vote, but we have high hopes in hosting the 2019 Asian Cup. To do so, the Korean team needs to be recognized as a strong team.”