Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Argument for the Inclusion of Team Asia

By Andrew W. Wright

The following piece represents the opinion of the author and not of the Quidditch Post.

This is the fourth year that I have been a part of OBU Quidditch, a team hailing from a small liberal arts college in Shawnee, Oklahoma, but this isn’t where I grew up. Due to my parents’ work, I was born and raised in Taiwan, a small island nation off of the coast of China. As it so happens, a small and largely inexperienced quidditch community has recently arisen. Obviously, this is something that has excited me. Although I may hold an American passport, my heart has always been back in Taiwan.

In early 2015, I started looking up the quidditch community there and eventually got in touch with Hao-Ting Wang, one of the leaders of Quidditch Taiwan, who spent time studying abroad at the University of York in England and playing for the HogYork Horntails. While I never had a chance to visit one of her practices during my last visit to Taiwan, our communication got me interested in what the status of quidditch was in Asia as a whole. After joining a few Facebook groups as we quidditch people do I realized that there’s actually a far more active community on the continent than I’d ever thought possible at this stage in the sport’s history. I learned that Malaysia, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines all have some level of quidditch activity. Not only that, but now Malaysia is preparing to host the first-ever Asian Quidditch Cup in July 2016. Sure it’s taking place the same summer as the German-hosted World Cup, but as young as these teams and countries are to the sport, no one really seemed to have thought twice about it.

Photo Credit: Quidditch Taiwan
Or at least, no one thought about it until talk arose of there possibly being a Team Asia represented at World Cup. This was, of course, a very exciting proposition for the vast majority of the Asian quidditch community, and with the IQA having previously said that it would consider such issues on a case-by-case basis, people had begun to think that it was all but a sure thing. However, it wasn’t. Much to the community’s surprise and dismay, the IQA returned from its deliberation with a resounding no.

This may have been a poor choice for a number of reasons. At the most basic level, a Team Asia would have been the best possibility of giving the largest continent on the planet some representation at the world’s biggest international quidditch event. Some have claimed, in defense of this decision, that the World Cup is an event meant to represent only countries, not continents. Of course, the very fact that the IQA is willing to consider continent applications at all provides a pretty effective dismantling of this argument. While I can’t tell you what exactly went through the heads of those responsible for this heartbreaking decision, I can tell you why it will be hugely detrimental to the growth of quidditch in Asia.

First off, there’s the ever-present financial struggle that everyone who’s traveled for quidditch knows all too well. From the three-quarters of Americans who are utterly sick of having to find the money to go to the East Coast every single year, to the various nations sending teams to Germany this year, many athletes end up seeking financial support from their national governing bodies (NGBs) or from crowdfunding events. However, countries newer to the sport generally don’t have NGBs with any money available, and, in the case of many Asian countries, most people have never heard of crowdfunding. Even if people have, they are not likely to give money via one of these sourcing platforms due to massive cultural differences regarding money and personal finance. What’s worse, these predominantly East Asian teams will have to travel farther than anyone but Australia, whose league has been around enough to adapt. Unfortunately, it gets worse than that.

Most American and European players have no idea of the costs involved with such extremely distant destinations, where an airplane ticket can easily cost in the range of $2,000 per person. Raising $40,000 USD (or about 37,000 euros) from a very small quidditch community with minimal crowdfunding capabilities is borderline impossible for university students in Asia or nearly anywhere else for that matter. Additionally, the majority of these countries don’t have enough players for a full roster, and some do not even have enough for two-thirds of one. Being able to pool resources would still only barely allow Team Asia a fighting chance to raise enough money and wouldn’t remotely give them any sort of competitive advantage. The IQA is asking something of the Asian quidditch community that is, quite frankly, insane.

More than financial issues, though, there is an even bigger reason that there should be a Team Asia at this event. Thinking of OBU Quidditch, we weren’t even a year old when I joined. Despite being located in the Southwest region of the United States – the region that has become both the posterchild for and the hotbed of competitive quidditch in the USA – we came across more opposition from our institution of origin than most college teams. With a very small pool from which to recruit, next to zero support from the school, and most of our fellow students dismissing us as a bunch of freaks, we understandably had both a very difficult time recruiting and holding onto players from tournament to tournament. How, then, did we manage to score a bid to two consecutive World Cups (now USQ Nationals) in 2014 and 2015? 

Well, the first one was largely due to a brutal and hard-fought Southwest Regional Championships where we nabbed ourselves a shiny golden ticket. 

But that’s not the point. The point is, OBU finally got to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for World Cup VII, and that changed us. At a fundamental level, it changed how we viewed ourselves as players and how we viewed our team as a second home for a  scrappy bunch of misfits; above all, it changed how we viewed the sport as a whole.

You see, there’s something profoundly special about going to a quidditch event on the scale of Nationals or World Cup or whatever something profoundly special about what it does to you, for you. Seeing the glory that is the highest level of competitive quidditch in the world changes you. It changed my team and gave us the drive to go back for a second year, this time with a slightly increased level of recognition from our town and university. 

It would have done the same for Asian quidditch as well had the IQA allowed a Team Asia to be formed. Instead, IQA elected to cut the Asian teams out of the greatest possible level of exposure; a level of exposure that, for Asian quidditch players, would have given them the drive and the knowledge needed to go back to each of their individual member nations and shape them into full-fledged leagues. This would have undoubtedly allowed them to return and compete   as distinct nations – in the subsequent World Cup. Sure, the inaugural Asian Quidditch Cup will help, but the best case scenario is that quidditch activity increases in a couple of nations to a level comparable to the most active Asian nation: Malaysia

With a bit of luck, we may see a couple of Asian teams at the next World Cup anyway. That doesn’t change the fact that so much has been taken away from the quidditch community thanks to the IQA’s rash decision. Had it ruled differently, I think it would be safe to expect closer to four or five Asian nations represented in 2018.

It deeply saddens me, both as an Asian by upbringing and as a member of the greater quidditch community, that the IQA fails to see what an unparalleled opportunity for growth this is. Quidditch Asia’s community hopes that the IQA’s sitting members will rethink their decision.

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