By Jana Naskova
The University College Student Representatives of the Netherlands (UCSRN) represents more than 4500 students from the ten Dutch university colleges. The goal: to foster collaboration and connections between them.
For that purpose the umbrella organisations annually organises an annual competition that includes various sports activities such as football and hockey tournaments or a 5K run – but also other activities such as dance competitions, beer pong and a mascot competition. This year, the tournament is hosted by Utrecht University College, and is happening on 30 April.
Also this year, a three-metre tall, orange monster will mingle with the spectators and participants of the tournament. It is Charizard, the mascot representing AUC. But where does Charizard – whose aim according to AUCSA is to cheer on the people competing and foster AUC’s team spirit – actually come from?
2015 graduate Lia Sinnige and 2016 graduate Jan Willem Bruggerman were both part of the AUCSA board that gave life to Charizard. “Acquiring the mascot and then wearing it was quite an ordeal, but a fun one,” Sinnige and Bruggerman recount.
Charizard, a character from the video game series Pokémon, was bought by AUCSA in 2015, when AUC hosted and won the UCSRN tournament. The idea came about through a facebook poll in which students could choose a mascot to represent AUC at the UCSRN tournament. People were allowed to add in their own options, and someone added Charizard and found an Aliexpress company to make it. ”By that point, AUCSA could not say no, as this one had the most votes,” Sinnige says.
Wearing the mascot was not very pleasant, Sinnige recalls: “People couldn’t believe there was someone inside. It looks ridiculous, and is very warm and sweaty. You can barely move” Despite the difficulties, Sinnige remembers the time fondly. “Everyone was really happy to see me wearing it and wanted to give me a hug”, she says. And she jokes: “I didn’t get any credit for the fact that I managed to twerk in that thing.”
Bruggerman even admits that Charizard is a very unsustainable suit: “It was delivered from China and was very cheap.” He adds that if AUC ever needs to replace the mascot, it would be better to have a locally sourced, do-it-yourself Charizard.
AUC has a long tradition in participating in the tournament, and there are a number of activities and traditions that surround it. Dhruv Gulati, a first-year Science major and treasurer of AUCSA’s UCSRN team. Gulati believes that AUC has a stricter sign up process than most other UCs: “At AUC, we hold tryouts for the run and dance competition, and the already established Catch football team will play the football match,” he says.
A group of 90 participants, including 20 spectators, will represent AUC in Utrecht. Given that the UCSRN tournament has moved online for the last two years, it has lost popularity. According to Gulari, many first- and second-year students do not even know about its existence.
Sinnige brought up a somewhat surprising tradition connected to the tournament. She explains, when one UC would win the cup, the other UCs made it their job to steal it. Bruggerman recalls that when UCU hosted the tournament, AUC did not win by a few points. He decided to steal the cup. “Me and a friend broke into UCU’s office pretending that I lost my phone,” says Bruggerman.
After having successfully stolen the trophy, Sinnige recounts how Bruggerman made a Facebook page for it and posted pictures of the cup at different UCs. “They trolled them for about 8 months before confessing that it was in fact AUC that stole it,” Sinnige says.