Thursday, July 21, 2016

World Cup 2016: Spotlight on Spain

By Jaume Miró

Although there was an attempt at creating a quidditch team in Madrid in 2012, quidditch was not actually played in Spain until the following year, first by the Barcelona Eagles and soon after by the Dementores de A Coruña. Up until a few months ago, there were only three teams in Spain, but since the Asociación Quidditch España (AQE) was founded in April 2015, several teams have appeared throughout the country. As of June 2016, there are 14 registered community teams, plus another three teams planning to join next season, all of them community teams.

This season, some regions have started playing internal leagues. In particular, there was regular competition in the Basque Country, dominated by the Bizkaia Boggarts, and in Galicia, won by Pontevedra QC. Next season, at least two more regional leagues will get started: one in the Levante area, and one in Andalucia.

One of the most controversial topics about quidditch in Spain is the coexistence of two NGBs, one representing the country under the name of AQE, and another representing the regions of Catalonia and Aragon, under the name of Associació de Quidditch de Catalunya (AQC). The Barcelona Eagles are probably the best known team from Spain outside its borders, despite being part of the Catalan NGB, probably due to the fact that they were the first Spanish team at an international tournament – European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2014 – before the creation of either of the NGBs. After that, Spain participated in the 2015 European Games (EG), and this season Madrid Wolves and Malaka Vikings took part in EQC 2016, both failing to qualify for the upper bracket.

The Squad

For the current season, Spain chose two coaches for the team: Yeray Espinosa, captain of the Bizkaia Boggarts and head of the AQE, and Bienvenido Moreno, captain of the Malaka Vikings. The squad was chosen by the coaches and Miguel Vázquez, captain of the national team, taking into account players’ previous international experience, availability to attend national team practices, and overall performance during the season.

Spanish players at a recent training session | Photo Courtesy of: Asociación Quiddith España
Roster (by Position)
Andoni Aranguren (Bizkaia Boggarts)
Miguel Vázquez (Bizkaia Boggarts)
Pedro González-Tarrío (London Unspeakables)

Ander Carbón (Barcelona Eagles)
Andrea de Alfonso (Tri-State Lightning Quidditch Club)
Cristina M. Domingo (Malaka Vikings)
Dani Báscones (Madrid Wolves)
Laura Moreno (Madrid Wolves)
Leticia Colinas (London Unspeakables)
Steven Paisley (Florida International University)

Antonio Rodríguez (Malaka Vikings)
Artur Martín (Madrid Wolves)
Diego Ávila (Madrid Lynx)
Irene Velasco (Barcelona Eagles)
Josema Molinos (Bizkaia Boggarts)
Manuel Jiménez (Malaka Vikings)
Marina Blasco (Malaka Vikings)
Paula Marmolejo (Malaka Vikings)
Sergio Gutiérrez (Bizkaia Boggarts)
Siena Martínez (Madrid Lynx)

Sandor-Aritz Augusto (Bizkaia Boggarts)

We had the chance to speak with Miguel Vázquez, one of the coaches and the captain of the Spanish team, during a fantasy tournament played in Madrid in June, to discuss the team and their expectations for the tournament.

Quidditch Post: Good morning, guys. I would like to start by asking about the team and your goals for this tournament.
Miguel Vázquez: We see this tournament as a tryout of where we are right now, after a quick growth during the last year and a lot of new faces in the roster compared to last year’s team at the European Games. It would be great if we can be among the top 16 or even top 10 in the best case scenario.
Yeray Espinosa: Top 10 for sure! We have a very strong team this year, compared to last year, so I think we can fight against some top dogs.

QP: What about trainings how are you guys handling gathering the players before World Cup?
MV: We had some trouble, money-wise, to gather the whole team, so we are just holding two practices before World Cup, and I think that will be one of our biggest handicaps: not knowing the playing style of each player.

QP: What impact do you anticipate World Cup having on quidditch in your country?
MV: In my opinion, playing in this kind of tournament is a huge boost for the players, so the overall levels of the teams grow after each of these tournaments.
YE: It is also a good opportunity to get some attention from the media, which could attract some sponsors.

QP: Are there any teams that you particularly would like to play?
MV: In a tournament like this, the squad always wants to play against the best. Personally, I like close games, because those are the ones where you learn the most. So I guess Turkey and Italy are very interesting teams. Of course, playing against the USA would be great, even though there won’t probably be much of a game.
YE: I agree with that, but I’d also throw Mexico and Brazil in, since it’s less likely that we’ll get the chance to face them again.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before pools were announced.

QP: Most of the players in the national team are not very well known outside of Spain. Who are, in your opinion, the players who will make a difference?
MV: Players come from several different teams, so it depends on our playing style, but I think we have some strong players who will do great in any case. Personally, I think one of our strengths is our male beaters.
YE: Players with international experience can be important at some points, when it comes to handling pressure. And I think our seeker, Sandor-Artiz Augusto, will surprise a lot of people.

QP: I need to ask… What do you think about the integration of Catalonia and the Barcelona Eagles in the AQE?
YE: I think it would be very interesting to merge our associations from a competitive point of view because, even though it made sense to create the AQC in 2014, now we should focus on getting better.

Compared to the squad they brought to Sarteano for EG, the current Spanish team is more mature and much better organized. That being said, it is uncertain how they will handle the roster, since there are so many new faces. Even though most players have international experience, they have hardly played together, so results might depend on the chemistry the team develops on the spot. 

Two beaters in the roster, Andrea de Alfonso and Steven Paisley, have played in the US, so they are used to playing a physical and tough game, which could be an interesting feature to see in action on a European team. 

Their beaters will be backed by Dani Báscones and Ander Carbón. The former is  6’2’’ and 260 pounds, with a background in rugby, and is surprisingly fast for his size, while the latter is just 5’7’’ and 140 pounds, but very agile and precise with his hands, and has what seems like infinite stamina.

Paula Marmolejo chasing at EQC 2016 | Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography
In the role of chaser, both Irene Velasco and Paula Marmolejo are incredibly fierce and brave for their size, both with a background in rugby and seemingly no fear, so do not let them catch you with your guard down. Behind the chasers, both Miguel Vázquez and Andoni Aranguren are very well-rounded keepers who will lead both attack and defense and will give structure and order to the team.

Given that they are bringing a full roster to Frankfurt, Spain will not fall short of players like they did last year at European Games, so they could spice up the bracket games if they manage to make it there. Although they are probably still far from competing against the favourites at the tournament, there could be some interesting games against mid-range European teams, such as Turkey, Norway and Italy.

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