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Interview: Alex Benepe, Chairman of US Quidditch

Interview: Alex Benepe, Chairman of US Quidditch

This weekend, something magical is happening. From all across the United States, teams of Quidditch players are descending upon the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina. There they will take the field, doing broom-mounted battle until the single surviving team is crowned victorious. That’s right, it’s time once again for the Quidditch World Cup!

For the uninitiated, Quidditch no longer exists solely within the pages of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series. The real world, muggle-played version is a full-contact, gender-integrated sport that first burst onto the pitch in 2005. This year’s 8th annual world cup is slated to be the largest US Quidditch has ever seen. Eighty teams have been invited, and a new Swiss-style tournament structure has been implemented, guaranteeing more snitch-chasing, quaffle-shooting action than ever before.

With only days left before the big event, we sat down with US Quidditch CEO Alex Benepe to see how this year’s event was shaping up. Here’s what he had to say:

Geek & Sundry: You’ve got 80 teams participating in the world cup this year. Could you have imagined that sort of turnout eight years ago?
Alex Benepe: While it would have been hard to imagine 80 teams at the cup 8 years ago, it would have been even harder to imagine how fast the level of play has evolved. These teams mean business and they are amazing to watch on the pitch.

G&S: Can you recall any spectacular plays that stand out from past tournaments? Which teams were playing?
AB: A pretty famous play took place at the World Cup VI in Kissimmee FL in 2013. One of the french players from Paris Phenix went up and dove through the middle hoop (6 feet off the ground) in a match against UCLA.

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G&S: Are there any particular new teams out there that excite you?
AB: I was very excited this year about the creation of our newest region, The Northwest, and equally excited about two new regions next year, Great Lakes and the (new) Midwest, who split out of the current Midwest Region to create a new championship event and closer playing opportunities for teams.

G&S: What’s your favorite world cup snitch runner story, and can we expect the same sort of shenanigans from this year’s snitch runners?
AB: My favorite would have to be World Cup II when a snitch named Ryan Scura climbed onto the very tippy top tower of a dormitory while he was being sought off-pitch. For safety and gameplay reasons, snitches are no longer allowed off-pitch (instead they are released in the 18th minute and must remain on field), so that would never happen again. However I will always remember it.

G&S: Why the switch to the new Swiss format this year?
AB: [We’d had] too many blowouts in past years that made it boring for [our] teams and audience. It also guarantees every team five games instead of four, making their travel more worthwhile.

G&S: Every couple of years, the tournament moves to a new location. What’s the thinking behind that?
AB: We keep moving it around to try and make it more fair for teams and to explore working with different partners. We hope to move it off the east coast in the near future, if we can get a high enough quality bid in another region of the country!

G&S: If fans want to join up after watching this year’s tournament, how might they find a team?
AB: Best bet is to go on our website and check out the teams map to see who is already nearby. Failing that they can try starting their own team! They can always email [email protected] if they have questions or need extra start-up materials and resources.

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G&S: Where do you see Quidditch in two years? Is anything special planned for the tenth world cup?
AB: I see Quidditch in a continually growing and stable position in two years, with a lot more teams (at least 30% more), more events, more fans, and higher quality games. We are working right now on our strategic plan for the next three years so I should have a more specific answer for you by the end of the year!

We’ll check back with Alex and US Quidditch in the months to come, but right now it’s world cup time! If you’re in the area, the Quidditch World Cup opens its gates at 7:30am this Saturday, April 11th. The first matches of the day kick off at 9am EST, and if you click the image below you can catch the World Cup’s official livestream.

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