What is Korfball?

Korfball is a game played with a ball, as the name suggests. It’s not unlike basketball and netball. Two teams of eight players, four female and four male per team, play it. The purpose is to shoot the ball through a netless basket mounted on a 3.5 m high pole.

The beginning

Dutch school teacher Nico Broekhuysen invented the sport in 1902. It remains most popular in the Netherlands to this day, with almost 100,000 korfball players and 500 clubs in the country. However, it’s not only played in this country. Belgium, Taiwan, and another 70 countries have korfball players, even on an organized level.

How did it come to be?

Broekhuysen was sent to the Swedish town of Nääs around the turn of the 19th century. He was to take part in an educational course about teaching gymnastics to children. In Sweden, he became familiar with a local game called “ringboll”, where you scored points by throwing the ball through a ring fixed to a 3 m pole. Both men and women could play, even as members of the same team. You weren’t allowed to leave your zone on the field, which was divided into three zones.

When he came back to his homeland, Broekhuysen decided his students could benefit from a game like this. He made some changes to ringboll, putting a basket in place of the ring. The Dutch word for basket is korf. With a basket, it would be easier to see when goals were scored.

Broekhuysen also made the rules simpler, so the children could understand the game easily. That’s how korfball came to be. While its main idea was the same as ringboll, it became a new and standalone sport.

Sources inform that the first korfball club founded still exists. Dutch korfball club H.K.C. ALO from The Hague has never merged with any other club in history. It was established in 1906.

How to play Korfball

Historic moments

The sport was featured for demonstrative purposes in the 1920 and 1928 Summer Olympics. In 1933, Antwerp, Belgium became home to the International Korfball Federation.

Korfball is played in just under 70 countries. They include China, the United States, England, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, India, The Netherlands, Belgium, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Russia, Germany, Taiwan, Turkey, Hong Kong, Portugal, Pakista Greece, Serbia, South Africa, India, Sweden, Hungary, Spain, France, Romania, Philippines, Indonesia, and Italy.

The first time Korfball was played in the World Games was in 1985. The first IKF World Korfball Championships took place seven years earlier. They have been held every four years since. The Netherlands have won all of them since the 80s.

In 2006, Hong Kong hosted its first world tournament, the IKF Asia Oceania Korfball Championship. In 2007, the IKF Asia Oceania Youth Korfball Championships took place in New Zealand.

Regulations and rules

People play korfball outdoors in fall and spring and inside in winter. It is played on a court that’s 20 m × 40 m in size. It’s divided in zones, called halves. There is a 3.5 m post in each zone with a basket at the top. It is located between the back of the zone and the center line. The ball you use to play isn’t unlike an association football one. It weighs between 445-475 grams, has a circumference of 68.0-70.5 cm, and its bounce height is 1.10-1.30 metres if you drop it from 1.8 m. The diameter is 21-22.45 cm.

As noted, there are four female and four male players. Typically, an international korfball match is comprised of four periods or two halves. The duration varies depending on the competition. It’s just under half an hour when the match consists of halves, with a one-minute break between periods, which typically last 7-10 minutes. The break is 5 or 10 mins at half time.

Korfball rules

There are four players of each team per zone. You can’t defend a man from the opponent’s team if you’re female and vice versa within each zone.

One team selects their half at the beginning of the match. Their basket is there and that half is their defending zone. Points are scored by throwing the ball through the other team’s basket. Teams switch zones after two goals are scored. Defenders become attackers and vice versa. Attackers can’t enter the defending zone in between those switches. The teams change halves at half time.

Physical strength isn’t an issue because the rules prevent it. You can’t tackle, block, kick the ball, or hold another player.

A player who has the ball can’t walk with it or dribble it. They can move one foot as long as the foot, on which they were when they caught the ball doesn’t move. To keep the ball in motion, players need each other, so you need tactical and efficient teamwork.

Last but not least, you can’t try to score if you’re being defended. This happens when the defender is between the basket and the opponent, within arm’s length and attempting to block, or facing his/her opponent. This rule limits the aspect of player height while encouraging rapid movement.  

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