By Steffen Wirsching
Editor’s Note: Steffen Wirsching is the coach of Team Germany and plays for Darmstadt Athenas.
For years, the quidditch landscape in Germany was dominated by three teams: Rheinos Bonn, Darmstadt Athenas, and Three River Dragons Passau. If one was to bet on the outcome of a game featuring one of these teams against a team outside of the Big Three, no expert would have betted against them. It was different than in soccer, where there would still be a small chance for the unfavored team to win by luck. There had almost never been a game in SWIM range against any of the Big Three and even if there was, the snitch-on-pitch game of the Big Three was so overwhelming that the snitch game was almost always predetermined and no lucky catch was possible.
In fact, reigning German champions Darmstadt Athenas had shown at the preceding German Cup in June how overly powerful they were defeating their opponents. With a 15–person roster, they crushed their opponents with 100 to 200 points difference in every single game except the final, where they met Three River Dragons Passau. They showed that there was no question that they were part of the Big Three and they promised that no other team would ever have a chance of keeping up or getting close to their level of play.
Rheinos Bonn used to be part of the Big Three as well. They came in fifth at the German Cup but that was only because they met Three River Dragons Passau in the quarterfinals. Before that, they either won or placed second in every tournament in 2017. They comfortably won against any team aside from Darmstadt Athenas and Three River Dragons Passau and they showed great teamplay, courage, fairness, fitness, and all the other good things you would attribute to a strong and unbeatable team. They would never win by too high a margin against a weaker opponent, but they would also never allow a weaker opponent to beat them. Everybody knew and no questions were asked.
Three River Dragons Passau had always had the most changing roster from tournament to tournament, which made them vulnerable in every first game of a tournament. Because of that, TRD Passau always looked like they would be the first to eventually be defeated by a different team. However, because of great coaching, they always managed to prove their place in the Big Three and one could even argue that for quite some time they were the strongest of the three teams, winning German Cup in 2017.
The very first signs that this era would end could be seen in the NRW league (one of the German regional leagues) where Rheinos Bonn surprisingly lost against Phoenix Bochum right in the advent of European Quidditch Cup (EQC). When they comfortably defeated Phoenix Bochum on the last day of league play and secured their league title, all seemed to be right again in the German quidditch world.
Things are not the same anymore. The German League Final (also serving as the EQC qualifier for next season) showed that everything seems to be possible now. Saturday, Oct. 13 started with a big upset where Phoenix Bochum defeated TRD Passau. If this was a game won by snitch catch and luck, few would have been surprised and I would most likely not be writing this article. Phoenix Bochum showed great skill and development over the past year and TRD Passau, as mentioned above, always look shaky in their first game of a tournament. But, the game was not won by a snitch catch. Phoenix Bochum crushed TRD Passau, leading by over 100 points. When first seeing the final score, one had to believe that the teams had been written on the wrong side of the scoresheet. Do you remember the feeling when NTNUI beat Titans at EQC? Later in the tournament, TRD Passau lost against Jena Jobberknolls and did not even qualify for Division Two of next year’s EQC.
But TRD Passau was not the only Big Three team who lost this weekend. At the same time as the big Phoenix upset, Bielefelder Basilisken gave Darmstadt Athenas a really hard time. If you listened to the Quicker preview of the tournament, then you were sure: Darmstadt Athenas, the reigning German champions, would have no problem defeating every team on Saturday with a big lead. Maybe Looping Lux Leipzig, the second-seeded team in their group, would be able to score some goals against them, but you would never think of even the possibility of any SWIM game on Day One. However, Bielefelder Basilisken did not give up. They concentrated on what they were good at and they were leading by 20 points when the snitch entered the pitch. As one of the Darmstadt players, I can assure you that we did not underestimate the Bielefelder players. We were well aware that they have quite some talents in their ranks. We featured our A line-up and yet we could not defeat them, we could not lead against them, we could not even keep up with their game at some points. They were concentrated in defence, fast in offence, and they fought for every ball. Darmstadt Athenas eventually won by a lucky snitch catch, but this was a first sign that Darmstadt was no longer unbeatable. On Sunday, Darmstadt lost twice in SWIM range against Münchner Wolpertinger, who won the tournament, leaving Darmstadt in second place and qualifying for EQC Division One.
Rheinos Bonn played a good, concentrated Saturday without upsets against them, but on Sunday Rheinos Bonn lost against Phoenix Bochum (again!) in the quarterfinal and Münchner Wolpertinger in the semifinal, finishing fourth and qualifying for EQC Division One as well. How can you lose in the quarterfinals and still play in the semifinals you may ask? That’s called double elimination, but the gameplay format would be too much to get into for this article.
After the tournament, the quidditch landscape in Germany is not the same. It is no longer dominated by the Big Three. You could ask whether Rheinos Bonn, Darmstadt Athenas, and Three River Dragons Passau have become weaker, but that question can be answered with a clear no. It’s not that the Big Three are becoming less big — they are still consistently growing and playing at a high level — but what has changed is the gameplay level of the other teams who became so much stronger that they can now keep up, challenge, and even beat the Big Three. If you had asked me, I would not have predicted this to happen within the next two years, yet it happened last month. It is shocking, at least for the Big Three, but it’s also great; it means that quidditch in Germany is developing at a very, very fast pace. At German tournaments, everything is possible now. That makes quidditch way more interesting for everybody and it also means that Team Germany will become stronger than ever in the years to come as the pool of talented players grows and develops. The try-offs already showed this development; the tournament confirmed it.