June 27, 2018 7:33 pm
Updated: June 27, 2018 8:58 pm

Quidditch World Cup takes to the air in Italy as Muggles play popular Harry Potter sport

WATCH: Members of Italy and Australia's Quidditch teams took part in a demonstration match ahead of the Quidditch World Cup.

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The popular sport in Harry Potter’s world has taken to Italy, as the Quidditch World Cup began with Australia beating Italy in a demonstration match.

Twenty-nine teams made up of Muggles arrived in Florence, Italy ahead of the games set to begin this weekend to play a more grounded rendition of the popular wizarding sport.

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Quidditch, for those who haven’t read the popular book series by J.K. Rowling or seen the films, is played on broomsticks, with two opposing teams attempting to win with the highest score possible. Unlike in Harry Potter, of course, players in this version play by holding a broom in between their legs.

“Quidditch is a wonderful game. It’s honestly so exciting to watch as a viewer, so much happening,” said Liam McCoppin, Australia’s assistant coach, in an interview with the Associated Press. “There are four balls [and] often you don’t know where to look, and the athletes that play, the people who play, males and females, they’re very strong, very fast.”

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Much like in the wizarding world, each team is comprised of seven players with different roles.

Three chasers try to get a ball called a “quaffle” through the opposing team’s hoops — three on each team of varying heights — to score 10 points, while the keepers attempt to block attempts to score by their opponents.

Teams can also work to prevent each other from getting points by having their beaters use “bludgers” — a dodgeball — to take out opposing players. When a player is hit by a bludger, they have to dismount their broom and drop any ball in their possession, and cannot play again until they return to and touch their hoops before being able to replay.

It’s a considerably better way of playing than in the magical game, in which bludgers can actually knock players out as they move about the pitch on their own.

The final role is the seeker, who has to try and catch the “golden snitch,” which, instead of magically flying around, is attached to the waistband of a “snitch runner,”  who tries to avoid capture as long as possible. The game ends when a seeker catches the snitch, but since it’s only worth 30 points in the Muggle version instead of 150 points, a team must be far enough ahead in points that catching the ball will guarantee a win.  The snitch ends the game but does not necessarily declare the winner.

In the game between Australia and Italy on Wednesday, the former won 120-30 during the match held as part of the opening ceremony for the fourth edition of the competition.

Like at Hogwarts, Potter’s wizarding school, the teams also ensure there is diversity among the players.

“The most important thing about quidditch is diversity, its inclusivity,” McCoppin said. “It’s a mixed sport, mixed gender sport, so we’ve got males, females and also non-binary people.”

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Some of the players playing in Wednesday’s game were also long-time Harry Potter fans.

“Before I started playing quidditch, I read Harry Potter books, I watched the Harry Potter movies, but when you start playing, it is very different,” said Alessia Bruttini, an Italian player. “A lot of people say, ‘this is the sport of the most famous wizard in the world,’ but it’s a real sport. We train, we sweat, and sometimes, at the end of the match, we cry for joy or sadness.”

The competition in Florence is the fourth held by the International Quidditch Association and occurs every two years. The U.S. won in the inaugural competition in 2012 in the U.K. and in 2014 in Canada, but lost to Australia in Germany in 2016.

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