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Outdoor korfball match in the Netherlands
Highest governing body International Korfball Federation
First played 1902
Contact Limited
Team members 8 per side: 4 males and 4 females
Mixed gender Yes
Type Team sport, ball sport
Equipment Korfball
Venue Korfball court
Olympic Demonstration sport in 1920 and 1928
Outdoor Korfball

Korfball (Dutch: Korfbal) is a 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. 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 school teacher Nico Broekhuysen in 1902. In the Netherlands, there are around 569 clubs and over 100,000 people playing korfball. The sport is also very popular in Belgium and Taiwan, and is played in many other countries.


Korfball match at the 1928 Summer Olympics in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam

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 a 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; one newspaper wrote that "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 over 60 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. It is growing in popularity in the UK and in a unique reference to the sport, is featured in a song by the band Half Man Half Biscuit entitled "Joy in Leeuwarden (We Are Ready)" on their 2011 album 90 Bisodol (Crimond).

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]


Korfball is played inside in winter and outdoors in spring and fall.

The size of the indoor court is 20 x 40 m (22 x 44 yd), outdoor courts are 30 x 60 m (33 x 66 yd). The new outdoor courts size is 40 m x 20 m.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.[4]


Korfbal match in the Netherlands

A korfball match typically consists of two periods, with the length varying depending on the competition, but typically between 25 and 30 minutes, with a break between periods.[4]

Four players of each team are in one zone, and the others are in the other zone. Within each zone, a player may only defend an member of the opposite team of the same gender.

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 within arm's length and attempting to block the ball. This rule encourages fast movement while also limiting the impact of players' height compared to their opponents.

International tournaments[edit]

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  Netherlands  Belgium  United States
III Details 1989 West Germany  Netherlands  Belgium  West Germany
IV Details 1993 Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  Germany
V Details 1997 Finland  Netherlands  Belgium  Taiwan
VI Details 2001 Japan  Netherlands  Belgium  Taiwan
VII Details 2005 Germany  Netherlands  Belgium  Czech Republic
VIII Details 2009 Taiwan  Netherlands  Belgium  Taiwan
VIII Details 2013 Colombia  Netherlands  Belgium  Taiwan
IX Details 2017 Poland
X Details 2021 United States

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  Belgium  West Germany
II Details 1984 Belgium  Netherlands  Belgium  West Germany
III Details 1987 Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  Great Britain
IV Details 1991 Belgium  Belgium  Netherlands  Taiwan
V Details 1995 India  Netherlands  Belgium  Portugal
VI Details 1999 Australia  Netherlands  Belgium  Great Britain
VII Details 2003 Netherlands  Netherlands  Belgium  Czech Republic
VIII Details 2007 Czech Republic  Netherlands  Belgium  Czech Republic
IX Details 2011 China  Netherlands  Belgium  Taiwan
X Details 2015 Belgium  Netherlands  Belgium  Taiwan

IKF U23 World Championship[edit]

  • 2008 Kaohsiung, Taiwan – Winner: Netherlands
  • 2012 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain – Winner: Netherlands
  • 2016 Olomouc, Czech Republic – Winner: Belgium

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. The field of play is 16 metres by 8 metres, and goals are to be placed 3 metres from the end line. Matches consist of four quarters of 150 seconds each with a 45-second rest between each quarter. 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.[5]

Cultural references[edit]

Korfball is the theme of the song "Joy in Leeuwarden (We Are Ready)" on the album 90 Bisodol (Crimond) by Half Man Half Biscuit.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ a b IKF. "Complete Rules of Korfball" (PDF). 
  5. ^ The rule of Beach korfball International Korfball Federation

External links[edit]