Alberto Santillán had never read “Harry Potter” before.

It was 2011 and his boyfriend, an avid fan of J.K. Rowling’s popular fantasy novels, came to him with the idea of playing quidditch, a sport invented by Rowling in the books that fans had turned into real-life exercise. Santillán agreed to play, went to a quidditch game with some friends and was hooked.

He immediately read all seven books.

“When you submerge into the world of ‘Harry Potter’ then start playing, it’s fantasy brought to life,” Santillán said.

The Tijuana, Mexico, native traveled to Richmond this weekend for the International Quidditch Association’s Pan-American Games, playing the growing sport against teams from Canada and the United States at Glover Park in Henrico County.

The game is more than just people running around on broomsticks.

It’s a full-contact, mixed-gender sport played on a hockey rink-sized pitch. There are two teams of seven players, each of whom must keep a broomstick between their legs. Three hoops are on each side of the pitch, and the teams try to throw a slightly deflated volleyball through one of the hoops, which nets them 10 points. Their opponents, though, can tackle and throw dodgeballs at them.

Overall, it’s a combination of rugby, dodgeball and tag. Since its 2005 adaptation from book to real-life, more than 8,000 people have played it internationally.

The tournament started Saturday with a double round robin schedule. Play resumed Sunday—along with a youth quidditch workshop—with bracket play.

The U.S. National Team won the gold medal, followed by the Eastern Canada Regional Team, Team Mexico and the Western Canada Regional Team.

Jayke Archibald, a three-sport athlete in high school, picked up the sport in college. As a student at Hofstra University in New York, he accepted an invitation from a friend to play and hasn’t stopped since. After graduating from Hofstra, he joined a team in Boston that won the national championship in 2016. He is now a member of the U.S. National Team.

Archibald reads all seven “Harry Potter” books once a year for motivation—“The Prisoner of Azkaban” and “The Deathly Hallows” are his favorites.

“When it first started, it was very nerdy,” he said. “As it’s grown, a lot more athletic people are playing.”

The weekend was Archibald’s first visit to Richmond, but he plans to be back next year when the region hosts the International Quidditch Association World Cup on July 18-19, 2020.

Mary Kimball, U.S. Quidditch’s events director, said this weekend’s games were a great start to international quidditch in Richmond.

“This facility is gorgeous,” she said of the Glover Park turf, transformed from its usual soccer or field hockey surface into a quidditch complex.

Kimball added: “We are really committed to playing the sport and it’s important that we be valued for that.”

Tickets for the World Cup are expected to go on sale in the fall.

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