Guest Column: Southwest Beater Analysis


Antwerp Quidditch Club, the 2017 European Quidditch Cup Champions and core of the Belgium squad that earned the silver medal at World Cup 2018, announced in a Facebook post yesterday that the club will no longer play competitive quidditch going forward.

No team (nor A or B) will sign up as an official member of the Belgian Quidditch Federation,” the team said in its statement. “This is the end of [seven] beautiful years with great memories and lots of positive experiences.”

 

The announcement was accompanied by large scale retirements in the program, including six-year captain Seppe de Wit and star Louis Lermytte. Only four players are confirmed to be continuing their quidditch careers: Hanne Hermans, Hanne Frederix, Viktor Marckx, and Veerle Baumers.

(Photo Credits: Guillaume Faniel)

 

Antwerp Quidditch Club was founded in 2013 by Lermytte as the first Belgian quidditch club, though they were followed shortly after by the Brussels Quidditch Club, who pushed forward to form the Belgian National Governing Board. 

 

“I’m very sad to hear about the disbandment of Antwerp Quidditch,” said Lore Badts, Quidditch Europe executive manager and former Brussels Quidditch Club player. “They were great pioneers on a lot of fields in quidditch and I’m certain the sport would not have gotten to this point if Antwerp Quidditch hadn’t played the part it had. Antwerp Quidditch brought the level to new highs on the international scene and brought amazing competition to the community.  And for those things, me and thousands of others will be eternally grateful.”

 

Since the founding of formal Belgian competition, Antwerp has won the Belgian Quidditch League four times and the Belgian Quidditch Cup four times. They’ve also consistently made waves on the European stage, winning the 2017 European Quidditch Cup, finishing second at the 2016 and 2018 European Quidditch Cups, and making at least the quarterfinals in every iteration of the event. The club also added a B-team in 2015, which qualified for the European Quidditch Cup for the first time in 2019.

 

Team members have also formed much of the core of every iteration of the Belgian National Team, including the one that made the trip to Burnaby, Canada for the 2014 Global Games as a fledgling NGB, the one that made the quarterfinals of the 2016 World Cup, and the one that earned silver at the 2018 World Cup, playing Team USA in-range in the finals with 14 members of the club on the roster. On the continental level, Belgium has also finished second at the 2019 European Games and fourth at the 2015 and 2017 European Games. 

 

While the timing of the decision may seem sudden, the plan for much of the team to move on from the sport actually predates the COVID pandemic. 

 

“The main reason for us to quit was the time that quidditch took out of our lives,” Lermytte said. “Yes, it was great to compete at the top European level and every two years at a world stage, but it was simply too time-consuming given that it is an unpaid sport and considering there are two tournaments per year that matter. A couple of players of the ‘main core’ wanted to do other things with the remaining years of their 20s, whether it was other sports or work or school, and that kind of started the process of us thinking about quitting.”

 

Numbers at the club had started to dwindle in recent years due to the difficulties of recruiting as a club team, particularly in a country where sports are not incorporated into school, drying up the pipeline that fuels club teams in countries like the US. Dueling priorities within the team also strained interest.

 

“As the club became bigger…it became hard to rhyme trying to be European champs and taking care of our B team,” Lermytte said. “The lack of attention to our B team and constant competitive drive at practices led to our B team having less and less interest. It was unintentional at first, but when their interest lacked, we sort of focused on trying to become World Champs in 2020 and our practices were no longer built for new players.”

 

With the initial announcement that the World Cup would be postponed to 2021, the team chose to still give it one last run. But last week’s announcement that the World Cup would be delayed until 2022 or even 2023 was the nail in the coffin for the club. 

 

“Now, with World Cup 2020 canceled, we made a plan to stretch the existence of our club to 2021 to still be able to chase our world cup dream,” Lermytte said. “But with that again canceled, we decided to end it all.”

 

While the loss of perhaps its most historic club is likely to be a blow to the Belgian quidditch community, which was already small, Lermytte remains confident in what the next generation will bring to the table.

 

“I do have a lot of trust in the new leadership of Belgium,” he said. “If a turn is possible, it’s probably with those people.”

 

There’s no doubt that Antwerp Quidditch Club will forever have a place in quidditch history. From founding the sport in its country, to the team’s international success, to the individual stars it launched, the organization has definitely left its mark. But for Lermytte, looking back, what impresses him the most is how much they were able to do with one small core of players.

 

“If you look at the other top European teams: the Titans have by far the best athletes in Europe, METU Unicorns have the best recruitment program and a university to recruit from, the UK teams have a similar system to the US with a stream of college players that join community teams,” he said. “ We just had a group that stayed together for six years and found ways to be successful without having the best athletes. I’m not sure if I’m homering on my team too much, or if it’s worth mentioning, but that’s how I look back at it.”







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