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Korfball (in Dutch korfbal, which literally means basketball) is a team ball game. It is mostly played in the Netherlands, where it was invented, but seems to be catching on in the rest of the world too.

Korfball differs from (most?) other team sports in that it is a mixed sex game.

Table of contents
1 How to play
2 History
3 Philosophy of korfball
4 International korfball

How to play

Korfball is played indoors as well as outdoors on a pitch (called 'court'), divided into two halves called zones.

In the middle of each zone there is a post (3.5m, shorter for the young) with a basket in the top. The ball is similar to the one used for football. There are two teams, each consisting of eight players: two men and two women of each team in each zone (attack and defence).

Scoring is done by throwing the ball through the other team's basket. After two goals the teams change zones: the defenders become attackers and attackers defenders. At half-time the teams change sides.

(Graphical depiction of the rules in HTML and PDF formats)


Although sources are a bit hazy on this, it seems korfball is a descendant of basketball through an intermediate Swedisch sport called ringboll.

The story goes that at the beginning of the 20th century a Dutch school teacher called Nico Broekhuysen was looking for a game that both the boys and the girls in his class could play.

In 1902 he played a game called ringboll whilst in Sweden. Back in the Netherlands he devised the rules for korfball.

Philosophy of korfball

As long as you keep its philosophy in mind, all rules turn out to be straightforward. What, then, is its philosophy?

First and foremost, korfball is a team sport. Individual class is essential but there is no room for individual play. Belonging to a team means teamwork; running with the ball or dribbling is not allowed. A player that receives the ball while running, must stop and pass the ball to another player.

Korfball is a mixed sport. Men and women play side by side. But while women are equal in the tactics of the game, while playing it's man to man only. One man may may guard one man and one woman may guard one woman. So it's not two against one and a woman may not defend a man nor may a man defend a woman.

Third, korfball is a tactical game. Each party tries to win by scoring more goals using tactical skills of the team as a whole. The rules follow this principle and prevent physical strength from dominating the game. That means that physical contact is undesired. Blocking, tackling and holding your opponent are not allowed in korfball.

The same goes for kicking the ball or hitting it with your fists. Also, one is not allowed to move the post (which would make it harder to score).

Another rule that makes this a largely tactical game is that a player may not attempt to score when defended. That occurs when the defender is closer to the basket and is facing his/her opponent, and is at arm's length, and is attempting to block the ball.

International korfball

Originally, korfball was mostly played in Belgium and the Netherlands. It was a demonstration sport during the Olympic Games of 1920 and 1928 (which were held in Antwerp and Amsterdam!).

(Some sites seem to suggest that the progress of korfball was hindered by sexism, but I could not find evidence for that. Even in the Netherlands korfball is considered by some to be a game for nerds and wusses and the sport is not very popular. Such a reputation would seem to be a much more likely explanation for a slow growth.--branko)

The foundation of the International Korfball Federation in 1993 and the existence of tens of national federations seem to imply a international popularity for the game, which has been played in the World Games since 1985.

World Championships have been held every 4 years since 1978.