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Yooyu Year 'Round: The Unofficial Yooyuball League

by mebot1


With the Altador Cup once again beginning its annual domination over Neopian life, thousands of people are taking up their traditions surrounding the iconic event. But for some, this month-long tournament is not enough to sate their thirst for one of the most popular sports in Neopian history – Yooyuball. And for these passionate fans of the sport, it’s never really leaves them, even after the colosseum closes its doors.

These fanatics have all come together under one roof, calling themselves the ‘Unofficial Yooyuball League’. This league, called the UYL by most, consists of teams of locally-organized enthusiasts competing in Yooyuball matches in public courts, which are managed by a central authority both organizing matches and keeping records for all of the teams. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Devland Gair, chief event coordinator for the UYL, and he agreed to do an interview with me at their headquarters in Roo Island all about the league.

“Mr. Gair, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me about the UYL.”

“No trouble, no trouble at all! I can’t understate how much our fans matter to us, and things like this give us the perfect opportunity to express that!”

“Well, let’s begin with some history: Can you give some details on how the league first got started?”

“Certainly! The league came to be because of a few things – A perfect storm, some might say. It started with end of Altador Cup III, back in Year 10. The Cup was more popular than ever been at the time, and many of the Cup’s fans wanted to do more than just merely spectate; they wanted to be just like their favorite players, out on the field. However, before ACIII, Yooyuball gear was extremely expensive. A full set of pads for a player could only be custom-ordered, and would cost around 500,000 Neopoints at the least. However, the league began actually producing competition-grade Yooyuball equipment for a fraction of the price - a whole team could be outfitted for just under 200,000 Neopoints! As a result, local teams began organizing and playing matches against one another. They soon grew tired of playing against other locals, and the rest is history!”

“So at this point, there’s a set of teams wanting to play against one another. How do the matches get scheduled to begin with?”

“In the beginning, the league simply directed team managers to one another, and allowed them to schedule on their own terms. As the number of teams grew, as well as the number of fans following the games, we decided to begin booking exhibition matches at specific dates and locations, to help fans and teams alike get more organized.”

“But down the line, you all expanded on that with a new type of event. How did that come about?”

“Ah, yes - we eventually even started doing a bi-yearly tournament due to some competitive teams wanting to prove themselves further. Matches in the tournament are decided through single-elimination, as opposed to the Cup’s round-robin format. We find it much quicker to move through, and helps keep the event manageable to one or two days. We weren’t sure about the format at first, but it was so well-received by everyone involved that it just stuck!”

“Speaking of the Cup, I was curious: Has the UYL ever received any word from the Altador Cup Committee about the events?”

“Oh, I think you’re overestimating how prevalent we are. To tell the truth, we haven’t received any word from the Committee about anything at all. Initially there were some legal concerns about it – not that we believed to be doing anything illegal, but large groups do seem to be eager to throw about cease-and-desist letters – but some consultation about the matter eased any fears of that. That’s not to say that we’ve made sure not to appear as competitors to the Cup, though! We avoid holding matches of any kind during the Altador Cup tournament, and the entire league is a non-profit organization: Both the individual teams and the league itself are funded purely through a combination of everybody’s own pockets and charitable contributions. This not only avoid creating any competition with the Altador Cup, but it keeps everybody here from getting distracted about anything that isn’t the game.”

“What about the players in the Cup? Do they ever interact with any of the league’s teams? Maybe even doing a little recruiting?”

“Well, the thing that surprises a lot of people is that many of the athletes in the Altador Cup are actually quite affable; it’s quite easy to get in touch with them, and many are happy to interact with fans! That’s not to say that anything major’s ever happened – most of the time it’s just appearances for league teams to ask questions and such – but usually the players are ecstatic to see a famous athlete show up. As for recruitment, I’m afraid there hasn’t been anything of the sort whatsoever. Some of the players swear that talent agents make occasional appearances at games, but I doubt that there’s any truth to the matter – I think it’s more of an excuse for them to showboat during matches.”

“And one last question, this time about the fans: Why do you think the league is so appealing to some people? What do you think drives those hardcore fans?”

“Well, that obviously depends on the fan, but we’ve gotten enough feedback from Neomails to get a general idea. Some fans are pleased that we tend to focus on Yooyuball purely, as opposed to any secondary activities that they feel dilute the cup. Others are displeased with the recent allegations of foul play surrounding some of the recent cup, saying that they feel the league provides a much more ‘real’ experience with its matches. But the number one reason we’ve gleamed from the Neomails we’ve received is that people simply love the Cup and everything that goes on in it. And many agree that we simply provide an adequate alternative to the Cup in the months gone by – more than adequate, if you ask anybody out in the stands at any given match.”

“Well, that’s all the questions I was looking to ask! Thank you once again for taking the time to talk about the league with me – do you have anything you want to say to the people out there?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it at all, it was my pleasure! As for any further comments, ah…I did want to take the time to properly thank our fans for how much support they have given us over the years. Yooyuball is something that’s changed Neopia for the better so drastically in the short time it’s been exposed to the world. Regardless of where it’s being played, it’s created so many phenomenal moments that we all hold dear, so many groups that show true fervor for a- no, their team. And at the end of the day, everybody involved in the league – whether it be the staff, the players, or the fans – are all here because of their love for something common. It’s why I’ve spent the last four years here as chief organizer, and it’s why everybody gets out of bed and heads out to the field – and none of us would have it any other way.”

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