Thursday, July 21, 2016

World Cup 2016: Spotlight on Poland

By Kinga Robutka

Quidditch first came to Poland during a Harry Potter-themed LARPing camp in Czocha Castle, initiated by Jagoda Sadecka, a prominent figure throughout the development of quidditch in Poland. The first team, the Quidditch Hussars, were originally a community team centered around professors and students of the Summer School of Magic, and in 2015 were transformed into a community team based in Warsaw, with Sadecka as captain. For the 2015-16 season, all three teams registered with Polska Liga Quidditcha, the national governing body of Poland, were community teams based in two biggest cities in Poland – Warsaw and Kraków. The current national champions of Poland are the Kraków Dragons who won the National Cup in January 2016, which was a surprising victory for the new team, started and captained by Olga Krzywicka; the Quidditch Hussars placed second, and the other Warsaw-based team, the Warsaw Mermaids (captained by Marian Dziubiak), came last.

During the European Quidditch Cup 2016 (EQC) in Gallipoli, Italy, Poland was represented by the Warsaw Mermaids and Kraków Dragons. Both teams came last in their groups, and finished 34th and 36th, respectively, with no victories. At the national team’s debut at European Games (EG) 2015 in Sarteano, Italy, the squad placed last, but were nonetheless commended on their strong will and stamina.

Rafał Duraj keeps for the Kraków Dragons at EQC 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Polish teams and players continually struggle with a lack of domestic competitive tournaments, limited international exposure, and financial difficulties. As general quidditch activity in the region of eastern Europe is extremely limited, the only chance for the players to develop is by taking part in fantasy tournaments and international events scattered around central and western Europe. All of these factors prevent them from developing players with enough competitive edge and technique to challenge teams coming from more developed leagues, and from sending a solid, well-knit roster to international tournaments, an experience which would improve the overall level of the league.

The Squad
Poland’s team for the World Cup in Frankfurt is 19-strong, which is a surprising improvement in comparison to EG 2015, where the country was represented by a team of only seven players. Initially, 21 people expressed their interest to participate in the tournament; however, the team suffered two last-minute beater dropouts. The players were able to register their interest to join the national team online before coaching sessions were held in Warsaw and Kraków, where most of the players are based. The final selection from the 37 applicants was made by representatives of the three Polish teams, but ultimately all volunteers who were able to pay for the costs of the trip were accepted. Surprisingly, the team does not have a designated coaching team. Jagoda Sadecka, one of the most experienced players in the country, is the captain, responsible for coordinating the team and other administrative tasks. 

The Roster (by position)

Filip Kucharczyk (Quidditch Hussars)
Kiril Kravchuk (Warsaw Mermaids)
Marian Dziubiak (Warsaw Mermaids

Jagoda Sadecka (Quidditch Hussars)
Magdalena Piekarczyk (Warsaw Mermaids)
Mikołaj Nowak (Kraków Dragons)
Natalia Bałut (Warsaw Mermaids)
Olga Krzywicka (Kraków Dragons)
Maciek Olejnik (Warsaw Mermaids)

Adam Trojak (Warsaw Mermaids)
Emma Sands (Warsaw Mermaids)
Estera Malek (Quidditch Hussars)
Joanna Zawiślak (Kraków Dragons)
Maria Abramczyk (Kraków Dragons)
Natalia Nowak (No affiliation)
Rafał Duraj (Kraków Dragons)
Stanisław Iskrostinskij (Warsaw Mermaids)
Aleksandra Wójcik (No affiliation)

Aleksander Hibner (Quidditch Hussars)

Maciej Olejnik beating for Warsaw Mermaids at EQC 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Interview with captain Jagoda Sadecka
The Quidditch Post sat down with captain Jagoda Sadecka to discuss the team’s goals for World Cup, key players, and Poland’s preparation for World Cup.

Quidditch Post: What are your goals for this tournament?
Jagoda Sadecka: To win at least a single game, which already would be a great improvement in comparison to our previous performances on the international arena. If (or when) we manage to win a game, we will focus on trying to win another one, and so forth. Nevertheless, our dream goal is to get to the Sweet 16 of the upper division. 

QP: What will your team need to do to accomplish these goals?
JS: We need to play our game the way we were practising during our national training sessions. Last year, we came to EG as a team of seven people, so we had no chance to demonstrate our full abilities; this year, we are 18-strong and we are planning to conquer the world of quidditch.

QP: How is your team preparing for World Cup?
JS: We held three coaching sessions, with a possibility of there being one more. Since the majority of our players come from Warsaw and Kraków, the sessions took place in both of those cities in order to accommodate the players and ease their finances.  

QP: What impact do you anticipate World Cup having on quidditch in your country?
JS: During the previous competitive season, Poland had only two teams, both from Warsaw. The national team, as mentioned before, counted only seven players. Thus, the development of quidditch in Poland is already visible and encouraging. We are hoping that the publicity around the tournament will inform more people about the sport and attract more players to our teams.

QP: Are there any teams that you particularly would like to play?
JS: We are particularly excited to play teams from outside Europe. We were very saddened over the drop out of Team Peru, since they were supposed to play in our group, but we are equally happy to compete against other non-Europeans and we are in the group that has the most of them. We are also looking forward to the rematch with Catalonia, whom we played last year and really enjoyed competing against.  

QP: Who are some of your team’s key players?
JS: All of my players are valuable for the team. They are all an equally important part of it, and it is really difficult for me to differentiate between them. The cooperation between the players improves with every practice we have, so as a captain I am hopeful for my team. 

The only public performance of the Polish national team, at EG last year, should not be indicative of their opportunities this time. Bringing 19 players to Frankfurt is a grand victory in itself for the small league, but some of the choices are at least curious. On the roster, there are players who have not even played competitively at a national level. This could hinder the team’s ability to make substitutions. Combined with the limited number of seasoned players on the roster, such as keeper Marian Dziubiak, seeker Aleksander Hibner, who shone during EQC 2015, and chaser Rafał Duraj, it could amount to a greater issue in games against much stronger teams, where frequent substitutions will be needed. Another surprise is the fact that the squad does not have a designated coaching team. Perhaps this is a consequence of the limited number of experienced players on the team, but it is a risky move nonetheless, as the team will lack well thought-out tactics and a leader to push them through difficult times. 

Perhaps the best basis for prediction of Poland’s result in the World Cup would be the Polish teams’ performance in the European Quidditch Cup this year. The Kraków Dragons underperformed in their relatively easy group, mainly because they struggled with multiple penalties and failed to score enough hoops to compensate for this. This will possibly be balanced by the more intelligent gameplay from the Hussars and Mermaids, but nonetheless, nothing suggests that Poland will achieve an outstanding result. However, their appearance at the tournament is in itself a great success for the country, and hopefully they will have a chance to play as many games as possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment