Korfball was invented in 1902 by a teacher from Amsterdam called Nico Broekhuysen. Since then it has grown into a widely popular sport, which is:
Based on team play.
A mixed sport; men and women compete equally in the same team, all playing under the same conditions and rules.
A non-aggressive, non-contact sport.
Played throughout the entire year. In the Netherlands and Belgium, during the summertime1, the game is played outside on a field. During the winter period - November to April - it is played inside, in a sports hall. In other countries, korfball is played indoors throughout the year.
Played for various reasons: prestige, health, or just for the fun of it.
In The Netherlands, korfball is fifth on the list of most popular team-sports, behind football, volleyball, field hockey and basketball. There are about 100,000 people in the Netherlands who play the game, 40,000 of which are youth players2. All of these players are members of one of the 639 clubs to be found in Holland. The clubs are, in their turn, members of the KNKV, the organisation which takes care of all aspects of the game nationally. The game is not confined only to Holland, however. Although Belgium and the Netherlands still rule the world of korfball, other countries such as Australia, Pakistan and the UK are forming teams and showing an increased interest. Indeed, there are more then 35 countries all over the world where korfball is played. The Internation Korfball Federation provides a lot of information at its website.
Playing the Game
Korfball is played on a field 40 metres long and 20 metres wide. The field is divided into two separate sections. Each section has a pole, 3.5 metres high, with a basket attached to it: this is the 'korf'3. There are two teams of eight people: four men and four women. They are positioned into the two sections, with two men and two women in each section. One is the offensive section, the other is the defensive section, and one team's offence plays the other's defence.
The idea of the game is pretty easy to understand: by throwing the ball to other players from your team, without walking or dribbling, you are supposed to throw the ball into the korf. The defensive side of the opponent's team tries to prevent that happening. There are various ways to do this: the easiest way is, of course, to intercept the ball while the other team is building up their attack. The other way is to defend your direct opponent when he/she makes an attempt to score. The defending is simply done by holding up your arm and attempting to block the shot when you're in between your opponent and the korf. You must be within range of your opponent: that is to say, when you lower your arm you must be able to touch the torso of your opponent. The other restriction in defending is the fact that a man can only defend against another man, and a woman can only defend against another woman. If the referee decides that the shot was successfully defended, the defending team gets a free ball, and can try to play the ball into their offensive section.
Another unique rule in this game is that a player cannot leave his/her own section until there have been two goals scored, at which time the two sections switch position and role. That is to say, the offensive players go into defence, and the defenders can have a go at offence.
A regular korfball match takes two sessions of 35 minutes on a field, or two sessions of 30 minutes indoors. There are some changes to the rules for younger players, and these vary from country to country. In the Netherlands, younger players (up to the age of 12) sometimes take part in games where each half lasts 20 minutes. An additional rule applies to these junior matches: young players don't switch position and roles after two goals, but after ten minutes in each half. This rule was established because, in a youth match, fewer goals are scored and it was deemed unfair for one set of players to be stuck defending the whole time. In the UK, on the other hand, junior matches are played with 'normal' rules except the height of the post is lower for under 13 and below and the length of the match is also shortened for those age groups.
The score comprises a simple goal count: each goal is worth one point, the team with the most points wins the match. The referee keeps track of the score. There is only one referee in the field, and he or she also decides if a shot was defended, if one of the teams should receive a free ball, and when the match is over.
Free balls are given in various circumstances. Some examples are:
- When a player is walking with the ball in his/her hands.
- When the ball is touched or played by any player's foot.
- When an attempt at scoring is judged defended.
- When a player is obstructed while receiving the ball, or attempting to score.
- When a player pulls the ball out of his/her opponent's hands.
These are only a few examples. There are variations to these situations, as well as some other rules that must not be violated. A lot of the time, the receiving of a free ball depends on the judgement of the referee, and how he/she has interpreted the events of the game.
If a rule is violated in an extreme way, the other team receives a penalty shot. This shot takes place from a marked spot on the field, 2.5 metres from the korf. It may not be defended against, and all the players in the section have to stand outside the marked oval penalty area, which puts them at least 2.5m from the player taking the penalty shot.
Why Korfball is Played
Korfball is free from the circus of transfers, salaries and vandalism that we often associate with football. The players who take part in this game: the kids that are learning ball control; the players who are passionately trying to make it into the Big Final in Ahoy4; and the older players who are playing for recreation, are all having a great time playing it, not least for the after-match get-together in the bar...