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Outdoor korfball match in the Netherlands
Highest governing body International Korfball Federation
Nickname(s) ball de korf
First played 1902
Contact Limited
Team members 8 per side: 4 males and 4 females or 8 females
Mixed gender Yes
Categorization Team sport, ball sport
Equipment Korfball
Venue Korfball court
Olympic Demonstration sport in 1920 and 1928
Korfball match at the 1928 Summer Olympics in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam

Korfball (Dutch: Korfbal) is a mixed gender or all female ball sport, with similarities to netball and basketball. It is played by two teams of eight players with four females and four males in each team or with only female players. The objective is to throw a ball through a bottomless basket that is mounted on a 3.5 m (11.5 feet) high pole.

The sport was invented by Dutch schoolteacher Nico Broekhuysen in 1902. In the Netherlands, there are around 580 clubs and over 100,000 people playing korfball. The sport is also very popular in Belgium and Taiwan, and is played in 54 other countries. Mixed gender korfball is more general played in the north of the Netherlands, while all female korfball is general played in the south of the Netherlands.


Korfball has Dutch origins.[1] In 1902 Nico Broekhuysen, a Dutch school teacher from Amsterdam, was sent to Nääs, a town in Sweden, to follow an educational course about teaching gymnastics to children. This is where he was introduced to the Swedish game 'ringboll'. In ringboll one could score points by throwing the ball through a ring that was attached to 3 m pole. Men and women played together, and the field was divided into three zones. Players could not leave their zone.[2]

Broekhuysen was inspired and when he returned to Amsterdam he decided to teach his students a similar game. He replaced the ring with a basket (for which the Dutch word is "korf" or "mand"), so it was easier to see if a player had scored or not. Broekhuysen also simplified the rules so children could also understand and play it. Korfball was born. The main idea was the same as ringboll, but it now stood on its own.

The oldest still existing korfball club to never have merged with any other club is a Dutch korfball-club H.K.C. ALO from The Hague, Netherlands. H.K.C. ALO was founded on 1 February 1906.

At first there was considerable controversy about the sport, because the players were of both sexes. Several sports journalists refused to pay even the slightest attention to the new sport. Korfball-players were accused of being immoral. Even the sportswear was criticized, because the women were showing bare knees and ankles. A newspaper even wrote: "Korfball is a monster that spreads its claws to all sides". Yet korfball was featured as a demonstration sport in the Summer Olympics of 1920 and 1928.[3]

The International Korfball Federation was founded in 1933.

Korfball is played in 57 countries including: United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Poland, Greece, Serbia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, the Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, Germany, Taiwan, Turkey, Hong Kong, Portugal, Pakistan, Sweden, Hungary, the Philippines, Italy, Spain, France and Romania.

Korfball has been played in the World Games since 1985. IKF World Championships have been held every four years since 1978. The leading nations are Belgium and the Netherlands.

Hong Kong hosted its first international tournament, the Asia Oceania Championship in 2006. New Zealand hosted the Asia Oceania Youth Championships in 2007.

Rules and regulations[edit]


A ball is going through the 3.5m high basket during a korfball match

Korfball is played indoors and outdoors.

The size of the court is 20 x 40 m (22–44 yd). The court is divided into halves called zones. In each zone is a 3.5 m (11.5 ft) tall post with a basket at the top. This is positioned two thirds of the distance between the center line and the back of the zone.[1]


A korfball team consists of eight players; four female and four male or eight female.

Every team has their own coach, who can switch players during a match, negotiate with the referee, create the formation for the match and keep up the team's spirit.[1]

Korfbal match in the Netherlands


A korfball match consists of two periods of 30 minutes, with a break of 10 minutes in between periods.[1]

Two men and two women of each team are in one zone, and the others are in the other zone. During the match they cannot switch zones. Men and women play side-by-side, but duels are man to man and woman to woman. However, it is allowed for a player to switch among opponents whom he/she is defending, as long as they are of the same sex.

At the beginning of the match one team chooses one-half of the court. That half will be their defending zone, with 'their' basket in it. Players score by throwing the ball through the opponents' basket. After two goals, the teams change zones: defenders become attackers and attackers become defenders. In between those zone-changes, attackers cannot set foot on their defending zone or vice versa. At half-time teams swap halves.

The rules prevent physical strength dominating the game. Blocking, tackling and holding are not allowed, as well as kicking the ball. Once a player has the ball, one cannot dribble, run or walk with it, however, one can move one foot as long the other remains on the same spot. Therefore tactical and efficient teamwork is required, because players need each other to keep the ball moving. A player may not attempt to score when defended, which occurs when the defender is in between the opponent and the basket, is facing his/her opponent, is at arm's length and attempting to block the ball.

International tournaments[edit]

Korfball basket with ball

World Games[edit]

The national teams competition organized by the International Korfball Federation has been played roughly every four years since 1978.

Year Host Champion Second place Third place
II Details 1985 United Kingdom United Kingdom  Netherlands  Belgium  United States
III Details 1989 West Germany West Germany  Netherlands  Belgium  West Germany
IV Details 1993 Netherlands Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  Germany
V Details 1997 Finland Finland  Netherlands  Belgium  Chinese Taipei
VI Details 2001 Japan Japan  Netherlands  Belgium  Chinese Taipei
VII Details 2005 Germany Germany  Netherlands  Belgium  Czech Republic
VIII Details 2009 Taiwan Taiwan  Netherlands  Belgium  Chinese Taipei
VIII Details 2013 Colombia Colombia  Netherlands  Belgium  Chinese Taipei

World Championship[edit]

The national teams competition organized by the International Korfball Federation has been played roughly every four years since 1978.

Year Host Champion Second place Third place
I Details 1978 Netherlands Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  West Germany
II Details 1984 Belgium Belgium  Netherlands  Belgium  West Germany
III Details 1987 Netherlands Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  Great Britain
IV Details 1991 Belgium Belgium  Belgium  Netherlands  Chinese Taipei
V Details 1995 India India  Netherlands  Belgium  Portugal
VI Details 1999 Australia Australia  Netherlands  Belgium  Great Britain
VII Details 2003 Netherlands Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  Czech Republic
VIII Details 2007 Czech Republic Czech Republic  Netherlands  Belgium  Czech Republic
IX Details 2011 China China  Netherlands  Belgium  Chinese Taipei
X Details 2015 Belgium Belgium

IKF U23 World Championship[edit]

Continental championships[edit]

IKF promotes four continental championships: European Korfball Championship, All-Africa Korfball Championship, Pan-American Korfball Championship and Asia-Oceania Korfball Championship.

Europa Cup for Clubs[edit]

Every year the IKF organises the European Cup for clubs. The winner in 2009 was Koog Zaandijk from Koog aan de Zaan, the Netherlands. The winner in 2007 and 2008 was DOS '46 from Nijeveen, the Netherlands. DOS'46 won their first European Cup in 1982. Ons Eibernest from The Hague, the Netherlands won the first championship in 1967. PKC from Papendrecht, the Netherlands, have won the championship the most times, a record 10 wins in total. The Europa Cup is the only official international competition for clubs.

Until now, the winning team was either from the Netherlands or Belgium, with respectively 39 and 6 championships. The only club from the United Kingdom to reach the final was Mitcham Korfball Club from London. Mitcham lost the final against Catbavrienden from Belgium in 1998.

Beach play[edit]

For beach play, the rules of the game differ slightly from those of indoor play. Each team has 4 starters and 4 substitutes. Only a single basket is used and matches consist of 5 minute halves with 3 minutes rest between. If either team has only two players remaining (1 man and 1 woman) because of injury or other reason during the match, the referee will stop play and terminate the game early.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "korfball". Webster's Sports Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: G&G Merriam Company. 1976. p. 248. 
  2. ^ Koninklijk Nederlands Korfbalverbond. "History of korfball" (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Jurryt van de Vooren. "Forgotten Sport-heroes: Nico Broekhuysen" (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  4. ^ The rule of Beach korfball International Korfball Federation

External links[edit]