Altador Cup VIII Pre-season Report (6 Apr 2013)


For most Neopians, melting snow is merely a sign of the coming Spring, but for a dedicated few the end of Winter marks the start of the Altador Cup pre-season. Each of the eighteen Yooyuball teams held their first official practice sessions of the year this past week, and select Neopian Times reporters were given exclusive league-wide access to both players and support staff. One of the first teams to open their training facilities this season was last year's third-place finisher Meridell, and MD's head coach spoke with reporters in between speed training drills. "ACVII wasn't a perfect season for us," he told them. "But for the most part I was extremely pleased with the improvements we made. I think we finally found the toughness and determination that had been lacking in years past. Our plan for this season is to stick with what works for us, with just a little fine-tuning here and there." Later in the day, one reporter spoke with MD player Gregorio about the ongoing prank war between them and team Brightvale. "It's all in good fun," he replied with a grin. "'Wizard' Windell got this great idea to dump a whole bunch of beets into the cisterns supplying Brightvale's team with water. It didn't last as long as we'd hoped, but for a few hours the entire team was forced to drink water tinted Meridell red."

Also getting an early start to the season was the team from the Haunted Woods, which saw major upheaval following the close of ACVII. "I have a lot of respect for our former head coach," HW's third-year owner told reporters. "But after some soul-searching, I honestly felt that he was not a good fit for where I wanted the team to go." No hints were given as to who the new head coach might be, but staffers within the organization have indicated that top coaching prospects from across the league have been brought in to interview for the position. Following the official statement from the owner, reporters also got a chance to interview one-on-one with members of the team. "The mood around here has been a little subdued," Zo Junior admitted. "Not only did we lose someone we admired, all of us know at some level that a new head coach will probably mean at least one of us won't be playing for HW this season." Goalkeeper Fanetti echoed the sentiment in his own interview, but added, "We'll all remain Haunties for the rest of our lives, even if we end up finishing our careers in colors other than the Black and Orange."

Far on the other side of Neopia, team Shenkuu knows only too well the problems that come along with replacing a head coach. "It was pure chaos last season," one staffer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It took nearly all of the pre-season for the owner to pick a coach, and by the time the new coach finally arrived it was pretty much too late for her to implement the new system she'd brought with her." Further complicating matters was the last-minute decision to trade Foltaggio for Timu, a move which may have been one of the reasons SK finished in a disappointing sixteenth place. "All of the changes probably made it tougher for us to function as a cohesive unit," player Larcy Phu mused while tending to the team's rock garden. "Timu's really been a big asset to the team, though, and our head coach has some innovative schemes she wants to bring to ACVIII. If we can get everything perfected in time for the Cup, it should be a good year for us."

At the top of the world, Terror Mountain has an entirely different set of problems to contend with. "This winter has been unseasonably warm," TM's General Manager commented, "Which has caused all sorts of disruptions to our team practices. The day before we were supposed to hold our first team meeting of the year, a massive mudslide sealed off nearly all of the routes up the mountain. We finally managed to get everyone up here, but only a few days later we had a major snowstorm, which quickly melted and flooded out both the training field and team dormitories." Later on in the day, TM's head coach spoke at a press event, and during the question and answer session he spoke briefly about strategy for the upcoming tournament. "We've been steadily consistent over the years," the Lupe said, "But that's only a good thing when you're at the top of the leaderboard. I'm not going to give away all of our plans for ACVIII, but one of the things we're thinking of doing is moving the whole team to Altador a week earlier so they can adjust to the warmer climate." He went on to confirm that the team was still using their proprietary energy drink, but refused to comment either way when asked about rumors that the team was entertaining offers for longtime player Rinok Fitel.

While posed around the Altador Cup, one reporter mentioned TM's plans for ACVIII to team Kreludor. "They must have swiped that 'early-move' strategy from us," Jurin T. laughed when told of the idea. "Yeah, they ought to pay us a royalty," Qlydae Wegg quipped. After a long session of photographs and interviews with the head coach and GM, reporters finally got a chance to sit down for a one-on-one interview with team captain Derlyn Fonnet. "It was a long time in coming," she said of their dominating victory in ACVII. "We came so close to winning year after year, and it was difficult to hold on to the belief that we really could be the champions after falling short so many times." When asked if she thought Kreludor would suffer the same fate that so many past winners had, the Gnorbu sat thoughtfully for several seconds before answering. "You know, I'd really like to think not," she finally said, "Especially since we've spent a lot of time getting into top form, but so far no team has been able to withstand the pressure to become repeat champions, not even teams like DC and KI. We're going to do our best not to put too much pressure on ourselves, though, which should help alleviate some of the stress of the Cup."

One of many teams hoping to join the elite group of winners this season hails from the tiny nation of Kiko Island, who saw their best season ever in Altador Cup VII. "To be honest, we really didn't expect to do as well as we did," Ditan Colb said while taking a water break. "We all thought it would be a good year for us, after the success we had in ACVI, but the best we were hoping for was the middle of the pack, not anywhere near the top six." During the same break, one reporter talked with a newly-hired assistant coach. "There was a huge amount of improvement last season," the Peophin said, "But the owners were concerned about the fact that the team faded down the stretch in both AC VI and VII. So the organization brought in myself and a few other assistants, to work on building the players' strength and stamina for Altador Cup VIII." When asked how a team that was forced only two seasons ago to take up side jobs in order to pay for the trip to Altador could now afford three new coaches, she merely grinned and shook her head. "I'm really not authorised to comment on team finances," she said, "But I would like to mention that the newly christened Cocoa Juppie Training Fields sure do look beautiful this time of year."

Almost directly south of Kiko Lake lies Faerieland, where the recovery efforts have been all but completed. "With so many important buildings having been ruined, our team training facility was one of the last to be fully repaired," FL's Delma Harrence told one reporter. "It's nice to finally be able to play on a real Yooyuball field, rather than a farm pasture." The same sentiment was stated nearly an hour later by FL's General Manager, as she cut the ribbon to officially re-open the headquarters for Faerieland's Yooyuball team. Both fans and gathered media were allowed to wander the halls, talking with current players and gazing upon portraits of past FL Yooyuball greats. "Pretty much everyone in Faerieland had a hand in helping us rebuild, and we wanted to show them how much we appreciate everything they've done for us," team captain Kakoni Worrill said during an interview the next day. "Not many teams have fans that would give their last neopoint to help them out."

Down in Mystery Island, beaches have been abandoned, ruins lie unexplored, and vessels of all sizes sit moored and empty along the docks. For a newly-arrived visitor, the silence can be puzzling, until they follow the sound of faint cheers deep into the jungle. Mystery Island has been gripped by Yooyuball fever, and most of the local populace can be found early each day watching the open practices outside of MI's training facility. "The entire nation turned out to watch last year's tiebreaker match between our team and MD," one fan said to reporters while waiting for the next scrimmage to start. "Ever since then, it's been 'Yooyuball' this and 'Yooyuball' that around here. Almost everyone has a poster of at least one player on their wall, and there's even been fights about whether Lor Benneveldt's speed or agility is more important to blocking goals." Following the last team practice of the day, reporters finally got a chance to speak with the players. "It's certainly an unusual experience, preparing for the Cup this early in the season," Vela Binal said. "Normally this time of year, we're either working on our tans or practicing for the annual beach volleyball tournament." Selmon Wolf, the team's newest player, declined to speak with reporters, though he was mentioned by veteran Teylor Nix during his interview. "You'd never guess it, but Selmon is one of the biggest strategists on our team," the Nimmo said. "He's got an uncanny sense of what other team's weaknesses are, and he's extremely good at exploiting them."

For Roo Island, their own player switch for ACVII didn't work out nearly so well, though reporters quickly learned not to bring up the subject of last season to local fans, many of whom were still sore over the final standings. "We were robbed, to put it bluntly," one fan fumed. "Okay, yeah, we weren't gonna win any trophies last year, but there's absolutely no way our team deserved fourteenth place." The players themselves were more circumspect, though they did admit to a certain amount of confusion regarding the new ranking system. "We really didn't understand everything that went in to each team's placement on the leaderboard," goalie Clutch Billaban said, "But even if we hadn't ended up 14th, it still wouldn't have been a very good year for us." No press conference was held, as the team's GM was away on business, but she did leave an official statement which was read by one of RI's staffers once the media had gathered inside the team offices. "I was greatly encouraged to see the advances made last year in our side game play," the statement read. "Our goal this season is to improve just as much in Yooyuball, while maintaining our gains in the three sides."

The bitter taste of ACVII also lingers for many fans of Tyrannia, though a pervading air of unease has taken precedence in that prehistoric land. "We've tried to ignore it, but yeah, all the stuff going on around here lately has really put a damper on our practices," TY forward Wila Benne said during a team interview. "Not only is it hard to put everything happening right now out of our minds, there's also the fact that many other teams with this kind of worldwide scrutiny end up doing really poorly in the Cup. After all, Faerieland was finally starting to show some improvement before Xandra wrecked the place, and to be brutally honest, Altador still hasn't recovered from the brouhaha surrounding their discovery." After continuing on the theme of recent events in their homeland for a time, the talk eventually turned to Altador Cup VII. "We had some really proud moments last season," "Scrap" Taggert said. "Not only did we beat both Kreludor and Mystery Island, we went the entire second round without losing a game of Yooyuball." "That's probably why some of our fans were a little upset," Harlis Neyhbol interjected. "Under the old system, our record would likely have resulted in a slightly higher placement." At the close of the interview, the team's head coach spoke of a few changes he planned to make for ACVIII, though it is interesting to note that he left open the possibility of not attending the Cup at all, in the event that things in Tyrannia got too far out of control.

Beneath the scorching Lost Desert sun, several reporters mysteriously got lost on their way to LD's training facility and had to be rescued by the locals. The reason, apparently, was that an unnaturally high occurrence of windstorms had recently swept across the desert, completely obscuring the landmarks normally used to navigate in the vast wasteland. As the first press conference had to be delayed until all the reporters were accounted for, the few members of the media that did safely arrive on their own took the chance to conduct informal interviews with staff and players. "It was amazing to me, how quickly we bounced back after ACVI," forward Derbi Azar commented during the team dinner. "I wouldn't say there was any one thing that contributed to our success, it was probably a combination of a lot of little improvements. For instance, it was Rhee's second year on the squad, and I think we all played much better as a cohesive unit with a whole season together under our belts. The fact that we finally got a cooling system for this place probably helped too, by easing the transition between lands." One industrious reporter, suffering from nighttime insomnia, struck up a conversation with one of the midnight watchmen and uncovered a bit of inside information. "The owner's been planning something big for months now," the guard told her. "All sorts of bigwigs have been in and out of this place at all hours of the day, and part of the facility has been completely sealed off to everyone except the players and head coach." No one else questioned within the organization would confirm or deny the guard's statement, and other than hazy rumors regarding the modification of team equipment, nothing of any substance was discovered.

Floating high above Neopia, visitors to the Virtupets Space Station can't help but notice that the halls are already decked in festive Altador Cup regalia, despite the fact that the actual tournament is still a few months away. "Everyone says they have the best fans, but we really do," star forward Keetra Deile laughed when questioned about it. "They had all of that stuff put up before a single one of us even stepped foot on the practice field." During the team's lunch break, VP's owner held an impromptu press conference. "None of us were really disappointed with last season's results, since most winning teams have a bit of a letdown the following season," he said. "This year, I'm more than confident that we've shaken off any lingering malaise and are ready to compete for the highest honor this sport has to offer." The Tuskaninny went on to describe some of the changes the team planned for ACVIII, which included syncing the team facility's atmospheric simulation to that of Altador rather than Neopia Central, and possible software upgrades for both Goltron Mk I and XL Striker 3.8.

In the birthplace of Yooyuball, the entire city of Altador has already begun preparations for the eighth annual Altador Cup, though the mood there isn't nearly as festive as it has been in years past. "The Altador Cup was originally developed as a way to draw in visitors and introduce the rest of Neopia to Altadorian culture, and that goal has succeeded admirably well," the owner of Legendary Petpets told one reporter, "But it's hard on everyone here to see our team struggle season after season. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the hope that we had in the first few years has slowly morphed into a kind of resignation." When asked about reasons for the lack of improvement over the last several seasons, AD defender Lyvon Cibaire merely sighed. "It's inexplicable, to be honest," he said. "We've tried just about every kind of strategy you could think of, both on and off the field, but nothing's worked. It was pretty hard to take finishing in a tie for last place, but we did at least have a few bright spots last year, like getting our first victory of the season against Moltara and stealing that upset win from Krawk Island." After having struggled mightily for the past seven years, there are strong indications coming from within the organization that the team is heading for yet another shake-up, though no official statements have been released.

"Yeah, we lost to a last-place team two years in a row. Yeah, we let our guards down. You might want to come up with a new storyline one of these days," KI's head coach grumbled while on his way to a team meeting. For the hapless reporter who broached the subject, there was nothing he could do but stare at the coach's retreating back. "Don't mind him, he takes every loss as if it was personal," Nitri Cassale consoled the reporter. For team Krawk Island, ACVII was a solid, if unspectacular, year. "We were hoping to do a little bit better than seventh place," Ealyn Hawkshanks commented during an interview. "For us, the only color that really matters is gold. I mean, c'mon, we are pirates after all," the Quiggle added with a grin. KI's head coach refused to be interviewed, but reporters did manage to catch up with retired player "Dasher" Soley down at the Golden Dubloon. In between flagons of Tchea Grog, the famous Krawk talked of the team's plans to upgrade their training gear, as well as a much-needed re-seeding of the practice field. "We play pretty rough here, and that sissy Neopian grass we used just couldn't handle it long. The field turned into a mud pit, which lead to the Big Mud Fight of '12. It was all fun and games until a wayward mudball took out the team refreshment table. T'was a sad day, let me tell you."

It is all seriousness in the land of Brightvale, where King Hagan has purportedly been mulling over a personnel change for some time. "Everyone who works for the Yooyuball team here in Brightvale has shown nothing but the utmost loyalty and dedication, but we have not seen the kind of improvement needed to compete with the top teams around the league," the king said while holding court. "I have no plans to replace anyone at this present time, but I intend to run a thorough evaluation of all parts of this organization following the close of the upcoming season." Both players and staff seemed to take the statement in stride, as it was not entirely unexpected. "We've been stuck in the same general area of the leaderboard for a while," team captain Montecito commented afterwards. "King Hagan expects his subjects to dedicate all of their energies to whatever they choose to pursue, and results like eleventh place just aren't good enough." Some levity still remains in BV, however, as the team talked about the ongoing war with Meridell later in the day. "The whole beets thing MD tried was a good idea, but it's not much of a prank when it wears off so quickly," forward Kayn Hireck said. "We've got a few tricks up our sleeves that will last MUCH longer." None of the players would give out any hints, with goalkeeper Orie Dinelle merely saying; "Just wait until the Cup."

The mood in Moltara is significantly more upbeat, as their team has shown steady improvement every season since their debut in Altador Cup V. "I guess you could say we were latecomers to the sport of Yooyuball," MT defender Zax Bannet said during ricochet shot practice. "Looking back, it's no real surprise that we lost every single match in our first season. Last year showed us that we really can compete with all these other teams that have been in the sport for so much longer, but we still have a lot to learn." After the final practice of the day, MT's head coach spoke with the gathered media about plans for the upcoming season. "I won't say we're not going to change anything, since it's crucial to always be adapting to trends within YYB, but for the most part we plan to stick with the same system we used during ACVII." When asked about what changes exactly the team planned to make, the Zafara responded with a chuckle. "Unfortunately for you, that's privileged information. But," he added, smiling, "If you really want to know, feel free to strap on a sling and try out for the team."

It was a rough journey for reporters attempting to reach Darigan Citadel, as the storms currently sweeping over the Neopian plains have completely engulfed the floating castle. "It's helpful that our practice facilities are so far down in the depths of the Citadel, since we haven't been affected by the weather," team Captain Layton Vickles commented. "But even those of us from Darigan miss seeing the sun from time to time." While waiting for the team press conference to begin, one reporter spoke with a senior staffer within DC's front office. "Despite finishing in fourth place last season, it wasn't very pleasant around here for several months afterwards," she told him. "There was a strong feeling of resentment that we had to face KD four times in the same year, while MI didn't even have to play them once." When asked about the tournament schedule for ACVII, DC's General Manager told reporters that the organization had in fact submitted a written inquiry regarding the formula used to determine team groupings, but had yet to hear back from the Altador Cup Planning Committee. "We're not in any way blaming the results of last season on our schedule," he said, "Since we expect to be able to beat any and all teams if we hope to win a trophy, but we do want to raise awareness of the situation so future tournaments will have a somewhat more equitable matchup schedule for all teams." He went on to reveal that the team was looking in to changing the current formation used during games, and openly admitted that they had auditioned players from other teams, but cautioned that the move was merely standard practice, and not an indication that they were planning to replace anyone presently on the roster.

The journey to Maraqua was no less harried than the one to Darigan Citadel, as the majority of reporters were not painted Maraquan and were therefore forced to use breathing apparatus in order to reach MQ's team headquarters located deep under the waves. "I'll bet you're glad we have to practice in an oxygenated environment rather than our native water," goalie Tonie Plessix chuckled as the last reporter pulled the diving helmet off of his head. Once all of the assembled media were fully dry, MQ's head coach kicked off the day with the official team press conference, where he went over standard fare such as reactions to the past season and possible changes for the upcoming ACVIII. Midway through the Q & A session, one of the reporters asked about rumors surrounding the retirement of Elon "The Black Hole" Hughlis. After a short pause, the coach responded that he knew of no plans on any of the players' parts to retire, but the only one who could know for sure was Elon. Later on during the mid-day practice, one of the Yooyu keepers revealed a possible reason as to the rumors going around. "After the successes of ACVI, most of the conflict within the team disappeared, but the struggles we had in ACVII brought all of the problems back full-force," she said. "There are some on the team that feel as though someone else should be made captain, and with Elon's desire to be perceived as indispensable, he may think it's easier to simply retire than face being forced into a supporting role."

One Neopian Times reporter was also able to speak with various members of the AC Planning Committee, though none of them would talk with him except on the condition of anonymity. "To be frank, we were a little surprised with some of the resistance the new system met with last season," one member said. "There seemed to be a lot of confusion about it, which means we probably didn't explain it as well as we could have." Another unidentified committee member told the reporter that the bracket system was one of the things scheduled to be discussed during the annual planning meeting, but added that it was unlikely they would be reverting to the format used in previous tournaments. Information gleaned from other sources within Altador indicate that the ACPC has received applications to join the Yooyuball league, possibly from up to two different lands, and is currently reviewing an official complaint regarding the use of illegal equipment, though the defendant in the complaint was not revealed.

Although for fans the wait may seem to stretch out endlessly, for the teams there's only a short time left to get back into peak form before the new season begins. The countdown to Altador Cup VIII has begun!



Land and Sea (13 May 2013)


It's taken months of preparation, but the Colosseum has finally been made ready for the arrival of Altador Cup VIII. Fans from all over the globe gathered outside the historic landmark starting early this morning, straining their eyes in eager anticipation of which teams' bus would be the first to show. An audible gasp rose from the crowd as Team Altador's logo rolled into view, as AD has traditionally been one of the last to arrive. The surprise quickly turned to feverish speculation among the gathered spectators as to the reason for the early move from their local training facility, but King Altador remained tight-lipped about his strategy during the routine press conference, only saying that he felt his team's loyal fans deserved a chance to meet their favorite players before the upcoming Tournament overshadowed all else.

Team Krawk Island arrived close on AD's heels, and a rousing ovation went up from KI's fans when it was discovered that retired player "Dasher" Soley had been able to make the trip to Altador with the team this year. "He's just a legend in Yooyuball," one young Shoyru gushed. "Even after all this time, we want him to know that we haven't forgotten him, and how much we appreciate everything he's done for our team." Apparently still stung from an unpleasant interview during the off-season, KI's coach chose not to hold the traditional press conference, but he did allow reporters to speak with the players after they got settled into their team locker rooms. "It's been an interesting off-season, to say the least," Feldon "Dinksy" Collibridge commented to one reporter while lacing up for the first team practice. "There's been all kinds of pressure to get back on the podium this year, and Coach is determined that we're not going to lose to a last-place team three seasons in a row, so we've been training like crazy for months now. It's kind of a relief to get to Altador, since we're finally going to get to use everything we've been working on."

The halls of the Colosseum, now still and empty, lie eagerly awaiting the rush of fans anxious to see their favorite teams battle it out in the biggest event of the year. The countdown to Altador Cup VIII has begun!



Sun and Shade (14 May 2013)


It's always a spectacle when a team arrives at the Colosseum, but Mystery Island brought a whole new meaning to 'making an entrance' when their ship docked in Altador Port earlier today. It appeared as though half of the island had made the trip with the team, as the packed boat was full near to bursting with both fans and MI personnel. The excitement among the passengers, already at a high level from the first sighting of land nearly a half hour prior, reached a fever pitch as the gangplank was lowered, and the flood of passengers from the ship turned into an impromptu parade complete with dancing and musical accompaniment as they escorted their team from the docks all the way to the Colosseum. "That was quite a welcome," forward Teylor Nix laughed during the team press conference. "In a way, it's rather humbling to think of all of the hopes our fans have pinned on us this year. I'm hoping to prove that their confidence is not unfounded."

Team Haunted Woods' arrival was much more sedate, though their fans were no less joyful to greet them. Before heading to the media room for their first press conference, the players took some time to chat with fans and sign autographs, and "Brains" Mortigan even posed for a few pictures until Zo Junior dragged the Usul away. The first half of HW's press conference was mostly the owner talking about his hopes for ACVIII, and his last act before turning over the podium was to introduce the new head coach he'd hired during the offseason. To no one's surprise, the new HC was the former offensive coordinator of Team Kreludor, and one of the hottest coaching prospects coming out of ACVII. The Koi discussed briefly some of his plans on the offensive side of the Yooyuball, then introduced the rest of the new coaching staff, many of whom were top assistant coaches and trainers from around the league. After a few more questions, HW's owner abruptly ended the press conference, stating that he wished to give his team a rest after the long journey from the Haunted Woods, but promised one-on-one interviews with each of his players before the Cup began.

There's nearly three weeks left to go before the annual Tournament begins, but the anticipation is already building in the city of Altador. Inns and restaraunts are packed to near capacity, and the greens outside of the Colosseum are slowly being covered by a swelling crowd of festively bedecked fans.



Floating High and Low (15 May 2013)


Two more of last year's top eight arrived at the Colosseum today, with Team Kiko Lake being the first to show around noon. After the obligatory meet-and-greet with fans and a short Q & A session with reporters, KL went straight from the locker rooms to the training fields. "The team's ownership has been concered about the late-season problems we've had recently," Holbie Pinnock explained to reporters following the first set of cone drills. "The atmospheric pressure here in Altador is slightly lower than that of Kiko Lake, and our coach has the theory that we need to spend more time training in the Colosseum in order to be fully adjusted once the Cup finally rolls around." KL's head coach confirmed the statement later in the evening, and added that they planned to spend the first week experimenting with different styles of YYB equipment, to see which ones were best suited for the Kikos' unique traction issues.

The sun had nearly set by the time Team Darigan Citadel showed up, and due to the late hour it was decided that only the head coach and GM would attend the press conference. Most of the questions revolved around last season's unprecedented quadruple battle with KD, though there were a few reporters who brought up rumors of a player trade, which the head coach managed to artfully dodge. The General Manager also gave a short statement at the end of the press conference, thanking the Altador Cup Planning Commitee for hearing the team's greivances and introducing a new line of plushie Darigan Yooyus wearing the official DC Yooyuball jersey. As for the players, they had planned to spend the night settling in to their locker rooms, until HW's Wan Dirx mentioned that a local group of fans held a rally to support DC every night outside of the Hall of Heroes. After a brief discussion, the entire team decided to make the trip through Altador, and the delighted fans got the chance to hang out with their favorite players and chat about Yooyuball until the wee hours of the morning.

With a full one-third of all teams now in the Colosseum, the once-lifeless stadium is slowly being filled with the sound of laughter and the echo of dropped slushies and slung Yooyuballs.



Sand and Rock (16 May 2013)


Every team comes to the Altador Cup looking to gain some kind of advantage over the rest of the field, and today's new arrivals are no exception. For months there have been ongoing rumors of some kind of reserch going on in Lost Desert's state-of-the-art training facility, and the results of that research were unveiled today outside of the Colosseum. Standing on a raised platform built specially for the occasion, LD's General Manager proudly held up a brand new Yooyuball sling for the gathered crowd to admire. "This sling is the results of nearly two years' worth of research," she told the onlookers_ "And is a testament to the heights we can acheive when the best and brightest from each land come together to work towards a common goal. Scholars from Brightvale, scientists from Virtupets and even our own players labored to create this masterpiece of engineering, and thanks to their efforts we've come up with a design which is lighter, more aerodynamic, and even more efficient at transmitting the force from a player's arm into the Yooyuball. We have every confidence that this new sling is going to revolutionize the game." An immediate buzz went up from the crowd in response to the news, and the gathered media, in their rush to be the first to get reactions from the other teams, completely forgot about the scheduled interview with LD's Leera Heggle, which was eventually postponed for a later date.

Team Shenkuu, also looking for a leg up on the competition, decided on a slightly different approach. It all started when defender Antola Maeir joked that reason for the team's slump was because the Colosseum was the one place they hadn't climbed. Mirsha Grelinek, overhearing the comment, took it as a personal challenge and pretty soon a race was on between her and goalie Xana DiLanche to see which one could be the first to conquer the Colosseum. Within minutes the crowd outside swelled to nearly triple the size, with many of the fans taking bets as to which player would be the first to reach the top. Members of the Altador Cup Planning Committee, alerted by the ruckus, attempted to put a stop to the proceedings, but unfortunately for them neither player could hear their shouts over the general din, and the ACPC was reduced to trying to look dignified while scrambling to avoid the falling debris coming from above. After nearly an hour of climbing, Mirsha Grelinek finally reached the top, and she laughed later on that Shenkuu was bound to win now, since no other team could claim that they had literally risen above the competition.

With more and more teams arriving each day, the lighthearted atmosphere in the Colosseum is slowly giving way to an intense anticipation of events to come. Little more than two weeks remain before the start of Altador Cup VIII.



Feathers and Caps (17 May 2013)


For most teams, the first order of business after settling in to the Colosseum is to get right down to YYB practice, but this was not the case with today's most recent arrivals. "We thought it was time to mix things up a little!" Roo Island captain Lilo Blumario shouted to reporters over the noise of Clutch Billaban and Fenny Vail competing to see which one could be the loudest. "So often the fun of the Altador Cup gets buried under all the work we put into it, so we decided to relax and enjoy some of the side games this time around!" Realizing the futility of trying to talk in that situation, he led the media to a quieter area of the practice field, where they spent some time discussing team strategy while watching Jair Tollet kick Yooyuballs at a poor assistant coach that had been dressed up in a Jelly Chia costume. The interview came to a sudden halt when reporters were forced to dive to the ground to escape a barrage of flying Oranella Slushies, one of which the agile Blumaroo plucked out of the air for himself before running for cover.

Team Faerieland also sat out their first day of practice in the Colosseum, albiet for very different reasons. When the team bus rolled up outside of the huge amphitheater, fans were shocked to see not one but two FL players sporting obvious injuries. "It was all a problem of miscommunication," defender Delma Harrence said of her wing brace. "We were running a passing drill, and both Elbin and I thought we were supposed to be the ones that Kakoni would throw to." "It was just a mess of feathers and fur," Ciona Broan interjected, shaking her head. "Frankly, we were lucky that none of the injuries were severe." Elbin Kroe, due to his eye injury, was not able to attend the press conference, but the head coach confirmed that both players were expected to be well enough to start practice within the week, and back up to 100% in time for the Tournament.

Over half of the teams have now arrived in Altador, but a few of the top names are still noticably absent. With the Colosseum unofficially closed until Monday, the remaining teams will have less than two weeks to be fully prepared in time for the start of Altador Cup VIII.



Sparkle and Shine (20 May 2013)


It's been over a week since the official opening of the Colosseum for Altador Cup VIII, but it wasn't until today that the winners of last year's AC finally arrived. When asked about the reason for the delay, especially since the team's strategy for ACVII had been to make the transition to Neopia early, Kreludor forward Zenor Kevix responded with a sheepish grin; "Well, we had....... other things pressing on our minds this year." When questioned further, the Grundo gave a sigh and finally explained; "To be honest, the whole team ended up getting involved in the battle for the Obelisk a little while ago. It wouldn't have been a problem, except I joined the Red Erisim, Coco and Jurin went with the Sway, Derlyn chose the Awakened, and Qlydae fought for the Brute Squad. Being with different factions caused a huge split among the team, especially since Coco and Jurin wouldn't stop doing their victory dance after their side won," he added with a glare. "Things got so bad that our practices were being affected," he continued, "So our coach decided it would be best if we stayed on Kreludor until everyone cooled down a little." In what will no doubt be a huge sigh of relief for KD fans, all five members of the squad answered to the affirmative when asked if things were finally back to normal, though it should be noted that Coco Metrone brought along a Handmade Duchess Plushie to keep in the team's locker room.

The moon had long risen over Altador by the time the ship carrying Team Terror Mountain docked in the harbor. One by one, the weary players disembarked from a boat which looked as though it had been in a prolonged battle with a giant sea squid. "It's starting to feel like the weather has it out for us this year," goalie Minae Mitora told a reporter who happened to be at the docks looking for color commentary to include in his next article. "Our plan was to be here early this year, so we set sail from a port just outside of Tyrannia nearly two weeks ago." She went on to describe the massive hurricane which blew up when the ship was only a few hours out. "The captain tried to make it back to land, but it was no use. We eventually wound up in a lee behind Lutari Island, where we were forced to ride out the storm for almost five days until the winds had subsided enough for us to set out again." The Chia, apparently exhausted just in the telling of the story, trudged off towards the Colosseum, and her teammate Rinok Fitel picked up where she left off. "We had to stop several times to make critical repairs to the ship," he said, "And the food and water ran so low these last few days that everyone went on emergency rations. At this rate, we wouldn't be surprised to see an earthquake or tornado heading our way."

With a full two-thirds of the teams reporting for duty, the Colosseum has begun to ring with the sounds of Yooyuball at all times of the day and night. Fans from all over Neopia continue to stream into Altador, eagerly anticipating the friendly battles and fierce rivalries in the biggest sporting event of the year.