Unique Sports Advent Calendar – December 2: Korfball

Our second sport originates in the land of tulips and orange carrots, the Netherlands, and goes by the name of korfball. (To those wondering, ‘korf’ means basket in Dutch, so this is the other basketball.)


Korfball was invented by Nico Bruekhuysen, a Dutch sports teacher, in 1902. He was sent on a teaching cause to Sweden, where he discovered the game of ringboll, which was played by mixed teams, on a court divided into three zones, and throwing a ball into a ring three metres high to score.

He was inspired, and changed the rules before introducing it to his class. It was eight a side, with four males and four females, and two zones, but the biggest change was replacing the ring with a basket.

H.K.C. ALO is the oldest club that hasn’t merged, being founded in February 1906.

Korfball wasn’t an instant hit. At first, journalists refused to cover it, because (shock horror) women were competing equally with men! With bare knees and ankles! And yet it was featured as a demonstration sport at the 1920 Antwerp and 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

In 1933, the International Korfball Association was formed, and now has 67 members. It was first played at the World Games (which is the Olympic Games with non-Olympic sports) in 1985, but the first Korfball World Championships were played in 1978.

How to Play

Get together eight people, four men and four women. Arrive on a 20x40m court, with two 3m high baskets. It can be indoor or outdoor, it doesn’t really matter.

The game has two halfs, each lasting about twenty five minutes.

The field has two zones, with four players from each team (two from each gender) in each. One zone is for attacking, the other is for defending. You can only defend a player of the same gender. After two goals, the players swap from being attackers and defenders.

You cannot block, tackle, or hold an opponent, or kick the ball. Once you do have the ball, you can’t move with it, and need to pass it to your teammates. But, and this is interesting, you can’t score if you’re being defended, so making space is crucial.

Who’s on Top?

Out of the eighteen World Games and World Championship tournaments, seventeen of them have ended with the Netherlands defeating Belgium in the final. The exception was the 1991 World Championships…which was Belgium defeating the Netherlands.

The latest tournament, the 2015 World Championships, was held in Belgium.

2015 Korfball World Championships Results

  1. Netherlands
  2. Belgium
  3. Chinese Taipei
  4. England
  5. Catalonia
  6. Germany
  7. Russia
  8. China
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Portugal
  11. Australia
  12. Hong Kong
  13. Hungary
  14. Poland
  15. South Africa
  16. Brazil

The next main tournament, at the 2017 World Games, will be held in Wrocław, Poland, in July 2017.


We Aussies have a Korfball team, who, from what I can gather, are called the Skippys. Their website, here, illustrates news and events for the team, which appears to be heavily South Australian. Our team is regularly a contender at the Asia-Oceania Championships, which we won in 2004. Usually, we’re in the seventh to tenth range at the World Championships, but we came fourth in 1995. However, we did qualify for the 2017 World Games off the back of our ‘success’ in 2015.


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